Comment at CiF

On another one of Tony Juniper\’s idiot misunderstandings of the economics of growth and climate change:

\”At the moment, we judge success basically in terms of how much economic growth we can achieve, which in turn is often a proxy for how much stuff we are using up. It\’s a big challenge, but then it is a big problem.\”

Total tosh. Economic growth is defined as the value that is created, not the resources used to create that value. And of the increase of value created during the 20th century, Bob Solow (who, we might note, has a Nobel in economics and thus can be assumed to have at least some knowledge of the subject) has pointed out that 80% of it came from adding more value to the resources used, only 20% came from using more resources.

\”Projections on how these different aspects map out under business-as-usual scenarios later in the 21st century do not paint a pretty picture, especially when one considers the vast momentum added by population increase and the effects of economic growth.\”

Again, complete and total tosh. We have a set of such prejections called the SRES. These are the very projections which underpin the whole IPCC process. These are the projections on which the entirety of climate change is based.

The A1 storyline is a case of rapid and successful economic development, in which regional average income per capita converge – current distinctions between \”poor\” and \”rich\” countries eventually dissolve. The primary dynamics are:

* Strong commitment to market-based solutions.
* High savings and commitment to education at the household level.
* High rates of investment and innovation in education, technology, and institutions at the national and international levels.
* International mobility of people, ideas, and technology.

So, that\’s globalised market capitalism in that one then. And the results?

Energy and mineral resources are abundant in this scenario family because of rapid technical progress, which both reduces the resources needed to produce a given level of output and increases the economically recoverable reserves. Final energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) decreases at an average annual rate of 1.3%. Environmental amenities are valued and rapid technological progress \”frees\” natural resources currently devoted to provision of human needs for other purposes.

And resources become \”more\” not \”less\” available. Now, true, there is still that pesky CO2 to deal with: but the A1 family contains one of the two business as usual projections with the lowest cumulative emissions. And we can deal with the CO2 with either a carbon tax or a cap and trade system.

Oh, and the really big lesson to be learned from those projections? That globalised solutions produce fewer, richer, people with less pollution and environmental damage than the non-globalised solutions. So please don\’t start trying to use the IPCC\’s results on climate change to argue that we\’ve got to stop globalisation. The very work that shows we have a climate change problem shows us that globalisation is part of the solution, not the problem.

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