Is the pursuit of economic growth compatible with the pursuit of environmental sustainability? A discussion from the perspective of carbon emissions

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Neoclassical economics argues that environmental sustainability and economic growth in GDP terms are compatible through increased technological innovation and efficiency; however, exploring past data and observations as well as projections of future carbon emissions the increasingly prominent discpline of ecological economics brings significant evidence to suggest continued growth, which remains the paramount economic policy of most if not all nations, undermines sustainability.

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  • Horacio Ariel Feinstein says:

    G. Charonis’ presentation puts up (see his Table 1) the relationship between the (needed) global reduction of environmental impact for the next 40 years in terms of global decarbonization (CO2 intensity reduction); and the conclusion is that at higher rates of global economic growth the rate of the needed decarbonization, for a given reduction of environmental impact, is higher.

    Further on, trascending the arithmetical exercise and swinging into sociopolitical implications, when we dissagregate the abovementioned global analysis into a rough division between rich (for example, as a proxy, OECD’s nations) and poor countries we have to assume (from some ethical standpoint) that the burden of the decarbonization must fall on rich countries, who are major responsables of the current state of global environment. On this behalf, developped world countries must reinforce their decarbonization processes so to overwhelmingly more than compensate the ongoing emissions of poorer countries in order to reach a sustained overall global reduction of carbon emissions.

    As a result of this, in order to acheive environmental goals, rich countries must forget about growth while deepening decarbonization efforts to paramount levels. If this happens, it will represent a significant move towards environmental justice and it will show the rest of the world a sustainable productive pathway.

    Is this feasible somewhere?

    If the answer is negative, as I presume, what can we do?

    Is the penny beginning to drop or is it that the very few don’t want to invest even the pennies in decarbonization?