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Is the Green Deal a card shuffle trick?

Is the Green Deal a card shuffle trick?

(NOTE; this is not an analysis of the US New Green Deal, it is about the “green growth” narrative with the European Green Deal as the point of departure.)

The European Green Deal is a ”growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.”

There are reasons to discuss if the vision of the European Green Deal is desirable: why should it be a goal to be “competitive” or ”modern”? But let’s buy into the narrative and ask: is the vision possible? Is ”green growth” as expressed in the Green Deal or the Sustainable Development Goals even possible?

In a recent paper in New Political Economy, Jason Hickel and Giorgios Kallis do a good job in illuminating many of the discussions and concepts involved in the Green Growth debate. Their overall conclusion is that ”green growth theory – in terms of resource use – lacks empirical support”.  They note three caveats of their own conclusions. First, it is possible that ”it is reasonable to expect that green growth could be accomplished at very low GDP growth rates, i.e. less than 1 per cent per year”. Second, conclusions are based on the existing relationship between GDP and material throughput, but one might argue that it is theoretically possible to break the existing relationship between GDP and material throughput altogether. Third, the aggregate material footprint indicator obscures the possibility of shifting from high-impact resources to low-impact resources. Meanwhile, Hickel and Kallis also point out that material footprints needs to be scaled down significantly from present levels; to be truly green, green growth requires not just any degree of absolute decoupling, but rapid absolute decoupling.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There is no such thing as a business as usual scenario

There is no such thing as a business as usual scenario

The discussions about how much it will cost to mitigate climate change is a smokescreen. What constitutes a cost is not an objective fact, but laden with assumptions and subjective values.  

How much does it cost to stop climate change, to keep within the target of the Paris agreement? 

The answer depends on who asks and what is meant by costs. In the normal case we would say that something costs when we have to pay for something that we buy or possibly that we make ourselves, counting our work as a cost. In the mainstream discussion of climate change mitigation, cost can also mean loss of income or a lower GDP compared to a business as usual scenario. There are very small costs for the Brazilian government in protecting the Amazon. But the contribution of a protected Amazon forest to the Brazilian economy is small compared to the timber that could be sold, the hydroelectricity and minerals that could be extracted, the soy or beef that could be produced. 

There are many pits to fall into when discussing the cost of climate change mitigation. 

First, to compare mitigation measures with business as usual scenarios that omit the increasing cost of climate change is simply misleading. The costs of inaction are certainly bigger than the costs of action. 

Second, the business as usual scenario is based on that existing goods and services are desirable and that not doing certain things incur a loss of sorts. But there is no such relationship. If the US cuts spending on its military in half it would be just fine. If I skip a trip to Bangkok nobody will suffer.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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