It’s hard to imagine any politician calling for a recession but that might be what is needed to fight global warming according to the results of a study that compared year-to-year changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels with four factors: volcanic eruptions, the El Niño Southern oscillation, world population, and the world economy. The factor that best correlated with CO2 increases was above-trend economic activity as measured by gross domestic product. The level of CO2 deviated from the trend by about one half part per million for each trillion in U.S. dollars that the GDP deviated from the trend. Tapia Granados, a University of Michigan researcher who participated in the study, which was published on-line in the journal Environmental Science and Policy, told the University of Michigan News Service that “If ‘business as usual’ conditions continue, economic contractions the size of the Great Recession or even bigger will be needed to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2.”
This is not the first time that research results have indicated the need for economic contraction to fight global warming. A study released by Britain’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change in 2009 reached the same conclusion (see Lower Standard of Living Called for to Fight Climate Change). The Tyndall study called for a reduction in living standards in the wealthier countries over the next 10 to 15 years. Obviously this would be political poison. As it is, masses of people have been out in the streets of several European countries protesting austerity measures and here in the US the main issue in the presidential election battle is how to rebound from the economic collapse of 2008 by creating more economic growth. And Japan is still reeling economically from a tsunami as well as the effects of a nuclear power plant disaster. Slowing down global warming simply may not be possible politically.