Economic growth ‘cannot continue’ if the world is to tackle climate change
climate change, a report by an environmental think-tank has warned.
carbon reductions would be needed to hold temperature rises below 2C (3.6F).
said Nef’s policy director.
out if we become ecologically bankrupt.”
growth with climate safety, Nef added.
the global economy.
Magic bullets – such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear or even geo-engineering
– are potentially dangerous distractions
a good likelihood” of limiting the global average temperature to within 2C of
the global economy would need to fall by 95% by 2050 from 2002 levels. This would
require an average annual reduction of 6.5%.
2000 and 2007.
still,” they observed.
would allow “business as usual” to continue.
– are potentially dangerous distractions from more human-scale solutions,” said
co-author Victoria Johnson, Nef’s lead researcher for the climate change and energy
decentralised energy systems, but support from governments was needed.
attention, but are missing the targets,” Dr Johnson said.
which include biodiversity and the finite availability of natural resources, would
be better placed to deliver human well-being in the long run.
think-thank, said Nef’s report exhibited “a complete lack of understanding of
economics and, indeed, human development”.
and improve the environmental standards that really matter to people – like clean
air and water – in the process, as it has done throughout human history,” he told
it is honest. It’s authors admit that they want us to be poorer and to lead more
restricted lives for the sake of their faddish beliefs.”
Economic growth no longer possible for rich countries, says new research
pushed too far making a growing economy and a safe climate incompatible according
to new modelling from nef (the new economics foundation).
As economists and politicians anticipate the publication of official figures
for UK economic growth and the World Economic Forum gathers at Davos, new research
from independent think-tank nef, warns that we should be wary of celebrating rising
growth isn’t possible when faced with the threat of climate change and other critical
for climate change and energy use in the global economy. They then asked whether
global economic growth could be maintained, while retaining a good likelihood
of limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C, the agreed political objective of
the European Union and considered the maximum rise to which humanity could adapt
without serious difficulty.
in the carbon intensity of a growing economy. None of the models or variations
looked at could square the circle of global economic growth with climate safety.
Their analysis shows that:
would need to reduce its carbon intensity by 71% by 2050 (compared to 2002) or
2.7%t per year. This would mean achieving more than double the yearly average
improvement between 1965 and 2002. But even this would result in a level of carbon
dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere of 500 parts per million (ppm). Whereas the latest
climate science shows that such a level would push temperature rises far passed
the 2 °C threshold.
and international co-operation to move to low carbon economies, neither of which
was demonstrated at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December 2009. And
in the previous decade the carbon intensity of the economy (i.e. the amount of
carbon needed for every unit of output) showed no improvement and in the first
half of the decade actually headed in the wrong direction, up.
CO2 for avoiding dangerous climate change. According to the new analysis, with
a growth rate of 3%, this requires an unprecedented and likely impossible change
to the carbon intensity of the economy.
intensity of the global economy would need to fall by 95% by 2050 (compared to
2002) or 6.3% per year, an almost five-fold increase in the yearly average between
1965 and 2002.
However, between 2000 and 2007, the carbon intensity of the economy effectively
flat-lined. Given this, in order to achieve a 350ppm target, the annual fall in
the carbon intensity of economy would need to improve by more than 200-fold. For
each year that the target was missed, the necessary improvements would grow higher
technological developments seen by many politicians as central to tackling climate
Doubts surround the cost, site availability and energy needed to implement CCS.
Where biofuels are concerned, if the UK were to use oilseed rape and corn biofuels
instead of petrol and diesel we would need 36 million hectares of land to grow
it – 650 per cent more than all the arable land in the UK.
suggest that there is no magic technological bullet that will allow us to continue
with business as usual in the face of climate change and other critical resource
thresholds. Instead, the report suggests, we should focus on the policy implications
of extensive new research indicating that high levels of well-being and quality
of life can be achieved in rich countries at much lower levels of consumption.
With an increasing number of life-supporting environmental services becoming over-burdened,
the report highlights the key task of re-engineering economies to work within
their environmental budget.
to think of growth as natural for economies, forgetting that in nature things
grow only until maturity and then develop in other ways. A world in which everything
grew indefinitely would be strange indeed. A young hamster, for example, doubles
its weight each week between birth and puberty. But if it grew at the same rate
until its first birthday, we’d be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which
ate more than a year’s worth of world maize production every day. There are good
reasons why things don’t grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, so sooner
or later, they must be in the economy.
hamster. Endless growth is pushing the planet’s biosphere beyond its safe limits.
The price is seen in compromised world food security, climatic upheaval, economic
instability and threats to social welfare. We urgently need to change our economy
to live within its environmental budget. There is no global, environmental central
bank to bail us out if we become ecologically bankrupt."
of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, which
concluded that: "Economic growth in the OECD cannot be reconciled with a 2, 3
or even 4 °C characterisation of dangerous climate change."
"The latest climate science shows that we are already terribly close to being
committed to crossing the 2 °C threshold. This means if there is to be any chance
of avoiding this rise there needs to be a ‘crash’ reduction in greenhouse gases,
specifically CO2,." said Dr Victoria Johnson, co-author of the report and lead
researcher of the climate change and energy programme, "The easiest way to achieve
this is for a rapid phase-in of energy demand reduction in developed nations –
who, on average, are consuming excessively the world’s fossil fuels and other
natural resources. There are historical precedents for rapid reductions in energy
consumption such as the 1970s oil crises and the 2001 Californian electricity
crisis, so we know when there is the political will, rapid change is possible."
for adaptation to climate change too. Magic bullets such as carbon capture and
storage, nuclear or even geo-engineering are potentially dangerous distractions
from more human-scale solutions. These, like decentralised renewable energy, can
help achieve the emissions cuts necessary and improve society’s ability to adapt
to climate change. There is an emerging movement of these human-scale solutions
but they need government support. At the moment, magic bullets such as biofuels,
nuclear and carbon capture are getting much of the funding and political attention
but missing the target. Our research shows that to prevent runaway climate change
this needs to change.’
it may actually be easier to achieve human well-being, social equality, full employment
and strong public services.
also remaining in a dynamic equilibrium with the biosphere