Lord Stern speaks

Growth trumps the environment

A month or so ago I attended a conference Economics of Innovation, Diffusion, Growth and the Environment, organised by the Grantham Research Institute. At the panel session I asked Lord Stern if we must cut production to reduce carbon emissions because de-carbonisation cannot be achieved quickly enough. His answer surprised me by it’s frankness: If it’s a race between growth and the environment, growth will always win.

At other meetings I’ve attended, I have asked similar question of the great and good who worry about climate change. The answers have been consistently pro growth. However, a few calculations using the IPCC’s remaining carbon budget leads to the conclusion that decarbonisation cannot happen fast enough to avoid dangerous climate change without cutting world production: De-growth is necessary. Why do so few say this?

Is it because the political resistance from those representing the affluent is too great? I believe Lord Stern blunted the message in the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change to make it more politically palatable but I admire his challenge on the climate effect of the consumption of meat.

Will he be brave enough to tell the affluent (and the major companies that support our universities) to cut the pollution based on consumption even more?

Or can he show that Green Growth is possible?

Appendix: The de-growth movement

Discovering the de-growth movement should have cheered me up. Their Barcelona Declaration ends (translation below)

“As the economy of wealthy parts of the world quietly contracts and our damage to the environment through new infrastructures and extraction activities is constrained, well-being will increase through public investments in low-cost social and relational goods.

Every new proposal generates several new objections and questions. We do not claim to have a recipe for the future, but we can no longer pretend that we can keep growing as if nothing has happened. The folly of growth has come to an end. The challenge now is how to transform, and the debate has just begun.”

Translation: Stop the wealthy screwing up the world. Pay the poor to be happier.

It’s a pity that the de-growth movement cannot say things simply. Perhaps it’s the influence of their guru’s. Who can take seriously someone who mixes economics and social policy with the second law of thermodynamics? e.g. the de-growth guru Nicholas_Georgescu-Roegen

The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, described by the Library Journal as “…a great seminal work that challenges economic analysis”, is a wide-ranging technical and philosophical exposition which promotes the case that economic activity can not be adequately described without taking into account the implications of second law of thermodynamics.

This is obfuscating green ink stuff but I think it may have helped his academic career.

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