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Climate Hustle

Economic Growth and Climate Change Part 2 - Sustainable Growth - An Economic Oxymoron?

Posted on 29 November 2011 by perseus

In part 1 we examined the principal economic factors which determine anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. In this section we examine the potential for reductions in each of these terms.

As a reminder the economic factors determining CO2 can be described by the Kaya identity:

CO2 ≡ population x [energy/GDP] x [CO2 /energy] x [GDP/population]

Where energy refers to primary energy, energy/GDP is called the energy intensity, CO2/energy the carbon intensity, GDP/population the (economic) output per capita and GDP the gross national product. So this reduces to:

CO2 ≡ population x energy intensity x carbon intensity x output per capita

The global trends in each of these terms from 1990 to 2007 and projections from 2007 to 2035 assuming a 'business as usual' scenario are illustrated below.

Trends of Kaya factors determining CO2 emissions

Source: International Energy Outlook 2010 (original source: US Energy Administration Information)


Between 2007 and 2035, energy intensity and carbon intensity are expected to reduce by about 39% and 4%. In contrast population and economic output per capita is expected to increase by 27% and an alarming 91% respectively. All these factors together will increase CO2 emissions by around 42%. Therefore, it appears that if we carry on as normal, economic growth will swamp any benefit attained though technological advances, resulting in a substantial increase in CO2.

To meet CO2 targets, many mainstream politicians and economists such as Nicolas Stern talk about ‘decoupling the relationship between carbon emissions and economic growth by reducing carbon and energy intensity so we can carry on increasing GDP. Stern estimated in 2006 that the annual costs of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550ppm Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is around 1% of global GDP if we start to take strong action now.

However, this concentration is too high.  A stabilisation target of 450 parts per million CO2e is more widely regarded as synonymous with keeping mean global temperature by 2100 at no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  Exceeding this would likely result in more severe consequences on human and ecological systems, although even this concentration may be too high.  The  figure of 450ppm CO2e requires that developed countries need to reduce GHG emissions 25- 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.1 

Not surprisingly, a number of academics have suggested that economic growth is the main factor which needs to be addressed. For example, Professor Tim Jackson considers that economic growth “is totally at odds with the finite resource base and the fragile ecology on which we depend for survival”. In his book ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ Jackson calculates how much we would need to reduce the product of energy intensity and carbon intensity (in units of CO2e/economic output) to meet a CO2e of 450 ppm by 2050 without adjusting GDP or population growth rates. In the absence of such controls, we would need to reduce this factor by 10 times faster than the present rate, that is a 21 fold improvement by that date relative to the present to meet this target! Some other scenarios regarding population or GDP growth would require a virtual complete de-carbonisation of our entire energy system.

Recent evidence suggests that there has been limited ‘progress’ in reducing global CO2 except for a unintended temporary drop in 2009 which coincided with the economic recession, with the upward trend quickly resuming in 2010.  Whilst it is difficult for rapidly expanding economies to reduce CO2 in absolute terms,  it is more reasonable to expect that their CO2/GDP reduces as inefficient industries are improved or replaced. However, even these hopes were dashed in the case of China when a recent study suggested that the downward trend in this metric had reversed.  To underline these figures a statement at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Science Congress said that "recent observations confirm that given high rates of observed emissions the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised."  

There are also  non-climate related factors to consider when examining the implications of economic growth.  These include our finite resource limits, local ecological impacts, and in affluent nations the limited societal benefits of increasing incomes still further.

In conclusion, it seems that our present economic policies seem to place far too much reliance on technological methods to stand a reasonable chance of meeting future greenhouse gas targets in time. In view of the rapid pace of climate change, the risk of passing critical tipping points and the immense potential for increased global greenhouse gas emissions, a different set of policies are required. It is suggested that a multi-faceted approach would be far more effective aimed at reducing each of the terms in the Kaya Identity. This would incorporate:

  1. stabilising economic activity once a country has achieved high income status

  2. reducing fertility rates and increasing generational gaps in cultures with projected high population growth,

  3. continuing to reduce energy intensity and, 

  4. encouraging more substantial reductions in carbon intensity through a wide variety of technological measures

1 see IPCC AR4 WGIII. Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. WGIII Contribution to the IPCC AR4 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007), chapter 13, Box 13.7 on page 776. 

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 58:

  1. One first technical point, on a detail : there is frequently a certain confusion around concentration in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) and carbon dioxide alone (CO2). The first includes all GHGs and integrates their relative global warming potential . The second deals with CO2 only considered as the main driver of warming on long term. But CO2eq is the good metric, because what is important is the total positive forcing, whatever its source. What is more complex, as Real Climate explained some years ago, is that me must also include the negative forcings when we adress the anthropogenic effect on climate. For example in RC article (2007, numbers slightly changed since this date), all GHGs forcings give approximatively 460 ppm CO2eq – already more that would be necessary for a 2K stabilization. But if you include aerosols and other negatives forcings, we’re at 375 ppm CO2 eq. The Cancun agreement supported ‘a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above preindustrial levels’, but I didn’t find in the document a clear reference to 450 ppm CO2eq limit. Any information about this fact ? In the Stern report, CO2eq includes of course all GHGs (see chapter 8).
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  2. As a matter of luck, The oil covert that issue recently.

    In short, there is no gain in the world energy intensity since 2000.
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  3. A few comments:

    1) The economic growth indicated by the chart is a factor of 2.4257 by 2035, or approximately equal to an annual growth rate of 3.2% (1.032^28 ~= 2.42). The total annual average growth rate for OECD nations from 1990 to 2006 was 2.7%. There is no reason to think that will significantly decline in the future, although the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis will reduce that growth in the short term. In the meantime, China (10%) and India (11%), between them representing 36% of the worlds population will probably have double digit, or close to double digit growth rates for some time. This suggests the growth represented on the chart is more likely to be conservative rather than optimistic.

    2) Maintaining zero growth for OECD nations while spending 1% of GDP per annum on conversion to low emissions technology represents a declining income over time. That is a political impossibility to sell, and of dubious merit in any event.

    3) Economic growth, all else being equal, is a good thing. Of course, all else is not equal, but you would need very substantive reasons to not pursue economic growth.

    4) In a world with rapid technological innovation, and hence frequent adjustments to employment patterns, significant economic growth is needed to provide an underlying demand for labour to employ those people who are made redundant by new technologies. Therefore zero economic growth is neither desirable, nor achievable while we pursue and achieve rapid technological innovation.

    5) Large scale global trade is a prerequisite for maintaining a high standard of living in OECD nations, and for increasing the standard of living to OECD levels in nonOECD nations. However, much of that trade is driven by (and drives) economic growth. The ripple effect of OECD nations pursuing zero economic growth will be to significantly slow the rate at which non-OECD nations grow their economies. With average luck, it would trigger a major recession.

    6) Clearly I disagree with perseus' main conclusion. That is in large part (as indicated above) I believe the cure could be as bad in human terms as the disease. Global warming is not going to drive humans to extinction. It is going to significantly decrease our standard of living and (in the worst cases, population). However, freezing global growth carries exactly the same risks. Perseus is not actually advocating freezing global growth per se, but freezing OECD growth with other nations allowed to play cachup will be almost as bad as freezing global growth (if effective), and barely limit economic growth if ineffective.

    Rather than advocating the freezing of economic growth, we should welcome economic growth that helps better fund the conversion to low emissions technology. A 0.5% economic growth that helps fund a 1% reduction in emissions intensity is a net gain in terms of reducing emissions, and should be welcomed. On the other hand, economic gains which are not coupled with reductions in emissions intensity are counter-productive. The obvious answer is to use government levers to direct growth into channels that reduce emissions intensity, rather than to set zero growth as a policy.
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  4. @Tom C:

    3)I would dispute that economic growth is a 'good thing' in and of itself. It may have been good up to a point -- ie to raise the productivity of human endeavour to the point where we have material sufficiency, securely meeting the fundamental human needs with reasonably low labour inputs. That did require 'economic growth'. But industrialized countries passed that point decades, maybe even a century ago.

    Everything since then has been about capital fluffing up human 'needs' to provide the profit-making opportunities demanded by the capital-owners. We could just as easily have directed the surplus human labour freed up by those early productivity gains into any number of life-enhancing activities. Rather than making flat-screen TVs and Humvees and landfill fodder that some call economic growth.

    4) We certainly could remove the fuel of relentless technological innovation, just for its own sake -- and direct it instead into incremental, socially-useful and non-destructive innovation. Then you remove the ludricous -'creative-destructive' tail-swallowing of the current system.

    Why do we need 100% employment? Why not be happy with 50% of our time working to meet our basic needs? And why keep the binary have-job/ don't-have-job labels that produce such misery. There's no need to hoard work as we do -- except in a system that needs fear of 'no job' to whip people into work.

    A large proportion of all current labour is simply to benefit abstract holders of land entitlement - through mortgages and rent. Remove that protection racket, and another tranche of labour enforced on us, falls away.

    I agree, zero-growth isn't desirable. Negative 'growth' is ultimately what is needed -- a managed and gradual descent away from the material excess and pumped-up hyperactivity we have been cursed with. And no, the destination isn't the Stone Age; instead a new age of technical simplicity and sufficiency.

    5) A high standard of living is not measured by the shininess of a household's consumer toys. It is a fallacy which we have pulled nonOECD countries into believing. Those nations needed help to bring themselves up to a level of comfortable material sufficiency, absolutely. But we dodged that, and relied on our relative strength to direct their vast resources and labour to our own bloated material satisfaction. That has left nonOECD countries structured as distorted mirrors of our own ills.

    6) Agreed, simply freezing OECD growth and letting nonOECD play catchup is unlikely to stop multiple ecological boundaries being surpassed -- including on the climate front. A reduce-and-converge growth strategy stands a better chance.

    Of course this is all pie-in-the-sky. I know that. few give up ill-gotten gains readily. The present system won't be upended without a severe fright.

    Until then we will likely continue on a ragged march towards growth -- ragged because those ecological and resource constraints will be pulling at the foundations of the 'economic consensus':

    Growth cannot be infinite on a finite planet.

    I just hope we can learn that lesson before the reverse becomes a messy and shambolic retreat forced upon us by our excess.
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  5. What is wrong with sustainable living without growth once a certain standard of living has been achieved?
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  6. The Oil Drum article referenced by Yvan Dutil is well worth a look, as it reveals widely divergent trends of energy intensity among large consuming nations.

    Why does world energy intensity remain flat, while energy intensity for many individual countries has been decreasing?

    We are dealing with a large number of countries with very different energy intensities. The big issue would seem to be outsourcing of heavy manufacturing. This makes the energy intensity of the country losing the manufacturing look better.

    As China (and presumably other developing Asian economies) take over manufacturing, their energy intensities grow in sync with their economies. Developed countries appear to have already flattened or reduced their energy intensity.

    The other important and sobering observation is the apparent end of a multi-year decline in the ratio of CO2 emissions to GDP:

    -- source

    [The figure] indicates what we would expect ... : A declining ratio of CO2 emissions to real GDP until about 2000, then fairly flat thereafter. In fact, there is a distinct upturn in 2010. Thus new CO2 emissions from energy sources have been rising about as fast as real GDP since about 2000, and a little faster than real GDP in 2010. This is no doubt discouraging news to those who adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, thinking it would reduce CO2 emissions.

    This is no doubt linked to the rapid rise in emissions of developing nations (China and Malaysia come to mind). It would suggest that the biggest impact of future CO2 emissions reduction will be in those growing economies.
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  7. wyrdways " Rather than making ... and landfill fodder that some call economic growth. ... incremental, socially-useful and non-destructive innovation. Then you remove the ludricous -'creative-destructive' tail-swallowing of the current system. "

    My view on this is that we've distorted our labour and innovation processes. There seems to be a dominant notion that you're only doing something worthwhile if you're digging, cutting, killing, taking or otherwise extracting material from the natural world and processing and converting it into something "useful". Garbage, sewage systems and landfill sites are an unfortunate and ugly by-product of this attitude. We'd rather not look at them or talk about them.

    What we should be doing is managing the resources we have. Management means viewing every single thing as an assemblage of nutrients, minerals or just plain molecules. When it comes to nutrients, a sensible system would not allow an iota of possible fertility to be sidetracked into a landfill.

    What this means is that our organisation of labour and technology should be first directed to retaining and using materials that have already been extracted from natural sources. A bit like the sensible investor who only ever spends the interest and dividends earned on capital invested. Capital should not be exhausted on living expenses - extravagant or profligate living depletes financial capital in the same way as our current exploitation and destruction, rather than appropriate management, of our natural capital does.

    "Garbage, sewage and landfill sites" are the obvious signs that our so-called advanced societies are not much different in attitude and skill from less 'advanced' societies that use up their local water and land - and then move on. And only come back when the land has had time to recover. We don't move on. But we don't do much better with resources.

    It'd be very easy for labour and capital alike to move towards a more sensible organisation of economic activity centred around retaining the maximum amount of useful materials available for re-use or further use (or forestalling the need to extract more natural materials). Here I should cite the approaching shortage of phosphorus as a prime example.

    My own pessimistic view is that far too many people are excited by the idea of explosives and big, bigger, biggest machines. The notion that working with average sized machines to extract the same materials from something we call 'waste' is probably a bit infra dig for such people.
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  8. WyrdWays @4, we had certainly not reached "... the point where we have material sufficiency, securely meeting the fundamental human needs ..." 100 years ago when there was no cure for Polio and it was just seven years before the outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 to 100 million people in 2 years. We are still well short of that level world wide with Malaria, Cholera, Aids and Typhus still being major killers. That is to leave aside the host of minor ailments that still plague us and for which we have no cure, such as cancer and dementia.

    The ability to pay for cures for these diseases, and the research that leads to them comes of the back of economic growth. So also will the ability to improve education standards, and as I certainly agree that "man does not live by bread alone", that is a fundamental good (not need, but good) in which we are capable of much improvement, but which improvement comes at a cost, and hence must in the end be paid for by economic growth.

    Furthermore, however much you are inclined to dismiss material goods as the "fluffing up human 'needs' ", the simple fact remains that even small improvements in material assets will, all else being equal, lead to a more enjoyable life. This is most easily seen with computing. You may think that there has been no material gain in benefits in the progress from commodore 64 to Intel Core i3-2100, but I disagree; and so ought everybody who enjoys or finds instructive discussion on this site. And that progress is driven by a combination of economic growth and technological research.

    For my part I hope that that growth and research continue for some time.

    In the meantime, it is important to recognize that though increase in happiness due to material well being declines rapidly after a point, it still increases after that point. And an increase in human happiness is good in itself. Hence, all else being equal, economic growth is a good thing.
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  9. Wyrdways @4, the potential collectible solar energy on the Earth's surface is 11,000 times our current energy use. Clearly we cannot collect all of it without adverse repercussions, but we we were to collect a tenth of it, that 225 years economic growth at 3% per annum, even assuming no gain in energy efficiency. Beyond that we can easily garner more energy from the sun using orbital solar power. The potential energy harvest by this means is for practical purposes unlimited.

    It is true that we cannot sustain unlimited population growth. But economic growth? There may come a time when we have exploited most of the solar systems resources such that economic growth cannot be further sustained, but not on anytime scale at which it effects decision making now or in the next several centuries.
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  10. Do you think that only energy affects economical growth????
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  11. DrTsk @10, no! That is why I qualified my comments @9 by saying "even assuming no gain in energy efficiency".

    However, given sufficient energy, electrolysis can provide all the water we could possible need from the ocean. Given energy plus water, we can gain all the food we could possibly need via hydroponics. It follows that, provided we limit pollution, energy consumption and efficiency are the fundamental limits on economic growth.
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  12. This is an interesting and informative piece but do you think you guys could put together a concise, beginners guide to why per capita is used when comparing economies emissions output? It's a point I often come up against, that per capita comparisons are meaningless because the only thing that matters to AGW is the overall output, ergo we shouldn't do anything until China does.

    I always try to counter it by pointing out the emissions scenarios allow for continued emissions growth by China etc. for the next decade or two and that but that to remain within the 500 GT cap that will keep us under 450 ppm then the developed world needs to be bringing down their emissions now because it is impossible for China to act now and if we wait until they do then it will be far too late.

    But the actual economic argument for why per capita is so important is sometimes a bit beyond me so if you were able to do something along those lines it would be helpful I think.
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  13. The only problem with China is the attribution of the emissions. Especially since they have become the manufacturing proxy of the world. Most of their emissions should be attributed to western nations.


    Limit pollution, and recycle to avoid materials bottlenecks. With infinite energy still we cannot break through the finality of mineral resources, unless the human population stabilizes.
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  14. DrTsk @13, mineral resources are almost endlessly reusable through recycling. If that were not enough, almost half of the non-gaseous matter in the solar system is iron. So even leaving aside the potential substitution of advanced ceramics and glasses for many structural uses, mineral resources are not a limiting factor on economic growth per se. At most there is a risk that the energy intensity of metal production will increase as the more accessible ore bodies are mined out.
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  15. Addendum, I do agree that the human population does need to stabilize, and the sooner the better. But that is best achieved by economic growth and education in poor nations. It will certainly not be turned around in time to be as significant factor in the battle against global warming.
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  16. @bit_pattern

    I'm not sure if this will satisfy you, and I too encounter the same concerns. I have found a few of ways at looking at this.

    1) If you consider historical emissions rather than future emissions then we in the West (including Australia) are responsible for a whole lot more than just the 1.3-1.5% that is frequently quoted - so where does the burden for action lie?

    2) Per capita emissions are a pretty good proxy for "CO2 profligacy" - Australia fares pretty poorly on that front - indeed despite China now being the number one absolute emitter their emissions per person are still way under ours or America - so where does the burden for action lie?

    3) Imagine you are in a room with 350 people. These people are divided into groups - the biggest of which is about 50 people - let's call them the "China" group and the smallest is 1 person (you) - we'll call you "Oz" for short. The room is filling with water and, if left unchecked, everyone in the room will drown. Alas there is no way out of the room and also no way for the water to run out except through a very small plug hole that simply cannot cope. The only way to save everyone in the room is to reduce the amount of water entering so that the plug hole can cope (alas enlarging it is not an option without putting at risk the structure of the room).
    The group has learned that the amount of water entering into the room is a function of each person's individual activity and that at least some of this activity is regarded by each individual as necessary to maintain their way of life and enjoy the comforts of the room. You happen to be one of those people whose activity contributes the most per individual (and also happen to be in a very comfortable part of the room) although your overall contribution is dwarfed by the large group of 50 who are in a far less comfortable part of the room and who are increasing their individual activity to try and get more comfortable.
    Is it fair or ethical for you do nothing but demand that the group of 50 act first to reduce their activity (thus reducing the water flow far more than your individual efforts ever could) but also see that this would mean they remain far less comfortable than you while you sit there and do nothing but remain in comfort?
    Or do you take action and communicate with everyone you can that if we don't act in unison we may all be dead?
    (By the way there is another group of 15 or so who seem to be both one of the largest producers of water, the most comfortable and with one of the highest individual outputs of water anywhere - but they are apparently deaf blind and stupid and at least half of them deny the water is even there).

    Perhaps you might also accept that in this life or death situation you would be unwise to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and that even if not everyone takes action your chances of survival (and everyone else's) are improved if you DO take action.
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  17. @5 Dr TSk: "What is wrong with sustainable living without growth once a certain standard of living has been achieved?"

    Absolutely nothing. I just think that the West's current consumption of Earth's resources (material and ecological) is already way above that sustainable level of living. We need to descend to that level, and ditch the idea of infinite growth.

    Some may see that as a lowering of the standard of living. I see it as stepping off the treadmill consumptive capitalism has coralled us onto to. Time to stretch our legs, enjoy the view and think about how to be happy human beings again. A higher standard of living, surely?
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  18. @Tom C : Ok, I can see you've been bitten quite hard by the techno-evangelist bug. Endless optimism can be a great quality. But not when it veers into blind faith. It was faith in the unlimited good of technical progress that bought to global warming in the first place.

    On the points raised in @8: I see absolutely no connection between the medical cases you mention and need for a relentless pursuit of 'economic growth'. If the fabulous intellectual capital of man wasn't being hived off into the various useless parasites of the modern economy (eg investment bankers, marketing gurus, pepper-spray manufacturers..) and was instead thrown into medical science.. perhaps we would have already crossed Malaria, Cholera, Aids and Typhus off that list.

    Medical research and health care only count as 'costs' because our system frames it that way. Surely these are good ends in themselves that could be pursued more vigorously if we stopped pandering to smalltime iPhone envy.

    PS this was typed out on a C64... ;-)
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  19. @3 Tom Why does maintaining zero growth for OECD nations while spending 1% of GDP per annum on conversion to low emissions technology represent a declining income over time?

    Doesn't the emissions technology contribute to and replace lost GDP? Is this not better than the type of GDP generated through excessive and unnecessary use of carbon intensive products?

    It seems to me that if we reduce the useful lifetime of a product, or make the old version appear unfashionable we increase GDP but achieve nothing but pointless toil. Surely we have a vast potential to reallocate skills and labour away from this pointless consumerism and towards research and development without increasing growth?

    The UK government recently announced plans to increase the speed limit which would produce 'economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times'. However, would this not have been better achieved through teleconferencing? Perhaps teleconferencing reduces the need for cars, road-space and fuel, thereby reducing GDP. Not quite what is on the agenda at the moment?
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  20. @3 Tom

    Tim Jackson suggests that the 1% figure which Stern quotes is unlikely to be sufficient to maintain 2 deg C increase, since 550 ppm is too high, we need 450ppm or even lower. In fact the cost would be more likely to be equivalent to growth itself.
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  21. I agree with Tom concerning economic growth as a good thing. Western countries have globally the better HDI of the planet because they sustained a century long economic growth, and developed state-redistribution of wealth toward collective goods. Conversely, the poorest countries have low level of education, health, nutrition, etc. Economic growth is not the sole factor of welfare, of course, democracy and human rights matter for the Human Development Index.

    We must not have a western-centric vision of the present situation : OECD is no more the locomotive for world growth (nor carbon emissions for climate debate). Even if you convince your fellow citizens that lifetime growth of their personal incomes and assets is a bad thing (good luck for that), you’ve not adressed the main concern : 5 billion humans live in much more poor conditions than Western countries and want to escape their poverty. Globalization is not just a creation of voracious traders, it is the basic reality of a world whose representations have been brought closer by information and communication technologies. No country at Durban negociations meeting defends a policy agenda founded on ‘negative growth’ for itself or for others. Nobody consider the life conditions of 2 billion very poor rural people as sustainable nor desirable. The basic consensus is that we need to increase wealth of the world, not wealth per se, but wealth as condition of human welfare.

    But I’m more pessimistic than Tom concerning the possibility to achieve such an economic growth without a large part of fossil fuels in the energy mix, at least in curent technologies conditions. We can certainly slow carbon emissions by energy efficiency and non-fossil substitution, but a large amount of energy is still a basic need for achieving human welfare. As I quoted it in another discussion (from Vaclac Smill’s works), in global mean from empirical observations, HDI is lowest under 40 GJ (per capita per year), increase from 40 GJ to 110 GJ, stabilize beyond 110 GJ (with still marginal gains, very low). So even if you take HDI (which is not the sole driver of human behavior, we also valorize other pleasures in life) and even if you imagine a perfectly egalitarian redistribution, we should produce now 770 EJ per year (rather than current 500 EJ) for an optimal and global HDI. And more in the future.

    PS : as a regular reader of The Oil Drum, I'm not sure there is enough oil, gas and coal to sustain such an economy and energy growth beyond 2030 or 2050. This geologic uncertainty add to climatic uncertainty as an argument for an accelerated energy transition toward a non-fossil future, if we want to avoid major risks.
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  22. perseus : "Why does maintaining zero growth for OECD nations while spending 1% of GDP per annum on conversion to low emissions technology represent a declining income over time?"

    If the production of goods and services is stable (no growth of GDP), but the cost for producing them increases (1% a year for public or private investment), it means your purchasing power declines (goods and services are relatively more costly over time). An artificial increase of income (monetary expansion) would just produce inflation.

    You can avoid this outcome only if the energy intensity effect of your investment on cost is higher that the cost of investment itself. If wind power permits to produce the same good with 2% less cost than coal or nuclear, your 1% investment translate in a 1% gain in purchasing power (goods are just cheaper with the new energy). But then, you must still avoid the Jevons effect (people tend to consume more as energy intensity lessen).
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  23. . There is enough oil and gas...just too expensive to get out and too damaging to the environment.
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  24. #23 DrTsk : well, the problem is of course economic, and not just geologic. The true cost of carbon increases if you include health, climatic and environmental externalities (and even military ones in the case of oil). But it also increases as the EROEI diminishes over time, and that is determined by geological constraints : crude light oil from Arabian deserts is not presalt oil from Brazilian deep off-shore — unconventional resources are more expensive than conventional ones, which sustained the hight rate of growth of XXth century. Anyway, from an economic point of view, market price is the correct reference rather than extraction cost. We currently produce 87 Mbpd of oil, with a peak in conventional oil since 2005-2006; if in the near future supply cannot increase as fast as the demand (notably from emerging countries), price will reach higher and higher levels, putting a strong pressure on oil-importer countries.
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  25. No doubt. Then US for example, if gas finds do not increase will go all out towards shale oil&gas and coal
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  26. My views on the de-carbonising of our economy are usually more optimistic that others. Saying that, I note the projected 'business as usual' growth of CO2 emissions given above is some 1.2% pa. That's real optimism.

    Of the 4 approaches towards de-carbonising suggested above, I don't think we have yet seen real results from 3 yet. I reckon that when we do, we will be pleasantly surprised how much progress is possible with energy intensity which, if sufficient, will also impact carbon intensity.

    One example of silliness I often mention is the amazing eco-green achievement of the first sub-200g whisky bottle. Now that's sure gonna save the planet, especially if it is recycled, don't you think? I don't believe industry has yet asked itself the question "How do we use 60% less energy? 80% less energy?" And in the case of the glass bottle industry the answer is "By making bottles out of something else."
    I see few signs yet of industry reacting to the challenge of AGW. They may have it in hand, but the deliverables have yet to show themselves.

    Nor has society got on board with reducing energy use. You can discuss 'why not?' Or 'when will they get on board?' But at the moment they are not. There are, for instance, still factories churning out cars with a gargantuan thirst for fuel which some folk will buy and then get all indignant when the price of fuel goes up again. A car that runs on one third, one quarter the fuel of a 'normal' car is not infeasible today but there is not the consumer demand for it. One day there will be. And when folk do start taking AGW seriously I wouldn't recommend driving around in the likes of a Range Rover, unless you have an armed escort.

    Supplies of clean energy are going to be scarce for some decades to come. I see energy intensity as the key 'solution' to de-carbonising. Once developed societies become de-carbonised, developing societies can then develop towards the same standard.
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  27. @22

    I'm not convinced of that because green products might have a higher marketable value, also that assumes Developing economies don't invest in renewable technology as well, China is for example. I suspect that is why many economies are relatively enthusiastic about producing more green energy rather than other means of reducing carbon since it doesn't reduce GDP.

    In itself, converting to (even expensive) low emissions technology doesn't involve a reduction in GDP. In fact worldwide GDP might surely increase if low emissions technology was more expensive and enforced. We might choose to work more to pay for the more expensive energy, and GDP is simply a measure of the monetary value not usefulness.

    Even a war might increase GDP despite the fact that you are trying to destroy one another with disposable items! Perhaps that disposablility provides a clue to the reason it did increase so much,and why GDP shouldt be taken too seriously! The US emerged from WW2 far better off in terms of GDP see here:

    Military production during World War II

    Of course the idea is that we transfer GDP from unnecessary GDP such as military products, fashion or waste to renewable energy.

    GDP is not necessarily good. For example, if we can reduce food intake by growing less, buying less, wasting less and working less, GDP goes down but there is no hit on real living standards, yet we have the free bonus of less toil! The same argument could be made for many things, we often needlessly waste or replace things and work needlessly to do so. It is crazy!
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  28. WyrdWays @18, frankly you can take your comments about "techno-evangelist bug" and shove it where the sun don't shine.

    If it has any relevance, I have spent my entire adult life at an income well below western (or Australian average). I am a medievalist (an amateur scholar of medieval history), and I grew up (partly) in Africa where my friends included many people from townships (where whole families slept in a single room) and holidays in remote villages with no electric power. I know from poverty, and I know the difference between necessary and merely beneficial technologies. Further, I have no personal desire for affluence except in the terms that the lowest incomes in the West are affluent compared to the rest of the world.

    In short, I am not disagreeing with you because I am a starry eyed idealist. Were I to follow my prejudices I would be entirely on your side, but I refuse to check my brains and accept comforting dogma's, no matter who propagates them.

    To your "substantive" points:

    1) Medical research is a cost because it takes resources to conduct it. At a minimum it takes the food resources which the scientists and staff do not grow for themselves. Ergo medical research is a cost to farmers, and can only be conducted where farmers are very productive. It is also a cost to glass blowers, labourers and builders, administrators etc who must all contribute their labour to make the research possible, and who in turn must have their food grown for them. All of this cost in resources means you need substantive investments in transport and logistics and financing, which in turn places more of a load on farmers, and so you go. That leaves aside the greater costs in research in chemistry, biology and physics which make fundamental breakthroughs in research possible.

    2) Like them or loathe them, merchant bankers and brokers and all the rest contribute to the growth of the economy, which makes possible the allocation of resources to such expensive things as research. Had the people 100 years ago looked around and said, "We have never had it so good,and all our basic needs are met. Therefore we will have no more economic growth", the result would be that research in the 20th century would have proceeded at about a tenth of its actual rate (at most) because of the very limited number scientists that could be employed at the then rate of economic activity. Look back a hundred years from now and the same will be said of us, if we manage to negotiate a few crisis on the way.
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  29. perseus @19, despite the many flaws with GDP as a measure of economic activity, it is the most commonly agreed measure, and the measure you used in your article. Using that measure, Nicholas Stern has estimated a cost of 1% GDP per annum to tackle climate change. That is a cost, and ergo a reduction of GDP available for other purposes. If GDP remains constant, but 1% per annum of that constant amount is allocated to other purposes, that is 1% less for things like food, education, police, roads, etc, ie, a 1% drop in national income. If the cost is greater than 1% per annum, then the reduction in income is greater. However, I am not an economist and have not and do not have the capability of making the estimate myself. Therefore I propose to accept what appears to be close to the consensus figure from a number of estimates.
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  30. perseus @27, we can agree that GDP is a poor measure of economic activity, and that consumerism is a bad thing. However, IMO bringing those issues into this discussion merely complicates the issue without shedding light. Might I suggest the the discussion should turn on whether growth in productive capacity is a good or bad thing of itself, and if it is good in itself, is the crisis of global warming sufficiently great a threat, and sufficiently unavoidable otherwise that we must resort to zero or negative growth to combat it. And for those who think it is, read up carefully on the Great Depression, for that is what you are wishing on the world for the next fifty years.
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  31. #27 perseus : "The US emerged from WW2 far better off in terms of GDP see here: Military production during World War II"

    Look at the growth rates of real GDP / person in the table 1.5 (p.14) of this IMF document , and you will see that the 1913-1950 period (WWI, Great Depression and WWII) was lower than previous and next periods for belligerent countries (including US, mainly Europe and Japan). Creative destruction was probably not so "creative" in wartime, at least it was less than during more peaceful epochs. In the same document, interesting discussion about the relationships between HDI and GDP.
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  32. perseus : "In fact worldwide GDP might surely increase if low emissions technology was more expensive and enforced. We might choose to work more to pay for the more expensive energy"

    Clearly, energy instensity is not the sole factor of growth : capital, labor and productivity are the three classical factors in economic theory. Productivity itself depends on technology, energy returns, learning by doing, etc. Unfortunately, the economic theory doesn't tell us exactly what is the relative weight of each factor or subfactor. 25% for capital and labor, 75% for productivity is a common gross estimate. Part of the energy intensity gains in total productivity is a subjet of debate (and some authors I favour suggest it could be high).

    Anyway, everybody agree that energy efficiency progress in current infrastructures is a good policy for economy and for climate. Beyond that, if you choose to implement a less efficient / more expensive source of energy, you will probably have to work more to achieve the same production of goods or services (your point). But that is precisely the reverse trend of what is observed since the industrial revolution. Malthusian doom predictions have been defeated because agricultural productivity have increased, less human work (and/or less land surface for capital input) producing more and more food at each generation. As we are 7 billion humans, including 20% undernourished, and will be 9 billion in 2050, any decision that affect total productivity is a serious and solemn decision, that must be carefully assessed before translating into action. At least, we must ensure that a worldwide redistribution of wealth is simultaneously guaranteed in this case, if not poor will very likely become poorer. The Green Climate Fund discussed at Durban is (smal) part of such a mechanism, as I understand it.
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  33. With regard to green 'growth' there have been some economic modelling studies on this if you are interested.

    Renewable energy: An efficient mechanism to improve GDP

    I am very much with WyrdWays on this, we are fighting against the tide with economic growth.

    However, I believe we could redirect the useless but substantial economic activity from wasteful practices, planned obsolescence and needless excess into more sustainable economic activity without affecting economic activity overall too much. We do need to shake of the growth bug. Reduce economic activity? perhaps, but lets walk before trying to run!
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  34. @ Tom C: Apologies for any offence caused, certainly none intended!

    But... Mining space for resources, orbiting solar power stations, electrolysis of the oceans for water, hydroponics for food, 10% harnessing of incoming solar radiation. They do all sound a little on the wild side of techno-feasibility to me.

    But probably no more so, to you, than my insistence that the world can voluntarily enter into a planned reduction in material wants. It seems like the only hope to me, but I don't see a queue of politicians forming under the 'lets live with less banner' yet.

    I sincerely hope one of us is right. But I suspect both views will be proved wrong - Gaia will secure her future, and it'll be one without homo sapiens (as we know ourselves anyhow)
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  35. bit_pattern @12

    For me the simplest answer to this is that it is about our responsibility at a personal level. If my personal life is good and my income is high and this all comes as a consequence of a high per capita emissions level then I have a more responsibility to act than someone on a much lower income. If I earn $1000/week and someone else earns $50/week, how can we argue that the other person should do more than I do? Then when we project this up to nations, why should a nation of people on $50/week have to do more per person than a nation of people on $1000/week?
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  36. Suggested reading:

    Oxfam, WWF and the International Chamber of Shipping (which represents over 80% of the world merchant fleet) call on delegates to COP 17 to give the International Maritime Organization (IMO) clear guidance on continuing its work on reducing shipping emissions through the development of Market Based Measures (MBMs).

    “COP 17 Climate Change Conference: Oxfam and WWF join with shipowners to urge agreement on way forward for tackling greenhouse gas emissions from ships” Oxfam International news release, Nov 29, 2011

    To access the entire news release, click here.
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  37. 'lets live with less banner'

    Being a fair bit older than most of you young whipper-snappers, I grew up in the era when bottles and jars were made with a now defunct impression. "This bottle always remains the property of Bickfords/Lion/whoever."

    Recycling bottles wasn't a matter of putting glass into a certain receptacle. It was returning property to its rightful owner. We'd be a lot better off rethinking our approach to material things than saying we have to make do with less.

    The reason this process is no longer used is that businesses decided they'd rather let their bottles go into the waste stream than pay wages to people to collect, clean and reuse them. We don't have to reinstate that process. But we should at least work out the costs and benefits of handling such things better than we do now.

    Of course, I speak from the lofty moral height of a state which has had container deposit/ return legislation for decades and recently outlawed lightweight plastic shopping bags. Remarkably, neither the economy nor the society has collapsed.

    We certainly have 'less' stuff in the case of the bags, and we're so used to the container rules that we're horrified by the ghastly piles of cans and bottles on roadsides and other public places when we go interstate. Cans and bottles vanish from our streets and public bins within minutes or hours. Keeps the place tidy, and lots of people with little opportunity get themselves some regular pocket money at the recycling depots. (The deposit recently increased to 10c per item. Yay!)

    Making do with less? Just go for this kind of low-hanging fruit, just like the first energy targets should be the low-hanging stuff - cost little, benefit lots. When we are more used to paying attention to certain kinds of material purchases, it's easier to move on to others.
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  38. WyrdWays @34, apology accepted.

    I am not sure why you consider some of these options on "the wild side of techno-feasibility". Where I live, every time I go shopping I have a choice between normal, organic, or hydroponic tomatoes and NASA has been researching the possibilities of hydroponic wheat since at least 1989.

    Also where I live, we have a reserve filter base desalinization plant capable of providing 20% of the water needs of a major population center. Obviously that could be expanded at need at the cost of increased of water supply. To my mind switching to an electrolysis based system makes sense in a world of renewable energy. During the day solar power can split water into hydrogen and oxygen which at night is then burnt to provide power and pure water. I do not claim, however, to have costed this method, but see below.

    Harvesting 10% of solar power is, I believe a reach. In fact I suspect we will instead harvest much of the solar power in the form of wind power, thereby allowing nature to store energy for us at the cost of some efficiency. We will also harvest some of the wind power as wave power with the same trade of. This will be supplemented by geothermal, hydro, and tidal power. We may also utilize nuclear power and it is still conceivable that fusion will finally become a practical power source (although I believe the practical application of fusion has been forecast for 50 years into the future for the entirety of my 50 some years). The point is not that a particular technology will be our energy supply salvation. Rather, it is that there is abundant energy to meet our future growth needs well into the future, and indeed, to do so sustainably.

    As for orbital solar power stations, assume that I am wrong by all means. That still leaves us with approx 225 years of growth before we genuinely need to switch to a near zero growth economy. (Assuming of course that practical fusion power is still 50 years of in 2235 AD.) But in that event the switch will be made without the need for significant political argument because there will be little basis to sustain the growth.

    All of these comments come with a very important caveat. I am not a futurologist, and I do not predict the successful implementation of any technology. What I do know, however, is that there are many apparently technologically feasible ways to accomplish everything we need to sustain growth into the future. And while I do not need to predict of any of them that they will pan out, those who think long term sustained growth is impossible need to assume that all of them will not pan out. IMO that is not a viable position.

    Given that, and given that economic growth, all else being equal is a good thing, and given the clear political suicide of a party actually advocating zero (let alone negative growth), I believe tying the response to global warming to a zero growth sustainability model places an unnecessary hurdle in the path to tackling global warming. (That leaves aside the issue that I would consider a zero growth model potentially ruinous in and of itself.)
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  39. adelady @37, for a while I went to school in Hamilton in Victoria, just across the border from South Australia. At every sports event you would see a small gang of children busily working the stands and scrounging any glass bottles left behind in order to collect the 5c refund when the bottle was returned to South Australia. Consequently, the sports grounds where essentially liter free, and this was in 1973. I was stunned when I returned to Queensland to find not such refund payable, and consequently heavily littered sports grounds, shopping malls etc. Consequently I am a huge fan of the South Australian system.

    On a similar but more general line, Germany has now made the manufacturers and sellers of goods responsible for waste disposal. I understand the effects have been good, although I have not seen a cost benefit analysis. The TV program from which I got this information indicated that cost wise the system was working well, but how reliable is any TV program? Regardless, in the absence of a cost/benefit analysis clearly showing the method to be inefficient, again I am very much in favour.
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  40. For orders of magnitude, fossil fuels produce approx 425 EJ or 13,5 TW each year. Solar radiation on land surface at the exclusion of polar, subpolar and difficult access regions produces a suitable flux of 15 PW, nearly a thousand times fossil consumption. For wind energy, the theoretical estimate of accessible flux is approx. 70-80 TW, five times the fossil flux. Waves kinetic total energy is 60 TW, but for coastal exploitation the value is rather 3 TW, a fourth of fossil flux. Tidal total energy amounts to 3 TW, but just 60 GW on coasts. Geothermal flux is estimated at 42 TW, but mainly on ocean floor so the current potential on land surface would be 100-600 GW. Terrestrial photosynthesis proceeds at a rate of 60 TW, from which approx 3 TW are currently exploited.

    So the conclusion is clear : the total amount of renewable energy flow that humanity could exploit is far over the fossil fuel, with direct solar energy as the most important source. Without even mentioning nuclear fission or fusion.

    But as we are speaking of economic growth (and climate mitigation), I think the relevant question is not the total and theoretical energy flow for a long term transition (numbers above), rather the realist exploitation of this flow on short term (decadal rather than centennal scale). We should recognise that either on energy density (amount of energy per unit of volume) or on power density (rate of flow of energy per unit of surface of land area), most renewable sources are for the moment less efficient that fossil or nuclear. And that’s also true for energy conversion from total incoming flux to final service, particularly for solar processes (the main source from total energy flux on Earth). As 80% of our energy come from fossil sources, the other problem is the weight of installed infrastructures in transportation, industry, building, etc. as they represent capital assets and human skills (ultimately, jobs). These points are much more uneasy to estimate and that’s why we must rely on energy-economy models. That is particularly true for a fast transition – people and society are not so flexible.

    If these models conclude that we can preserve economic growth while substituting fossil to non-fossil energy sources in the next 40 years, I think we must conservatively give credence to these models for their realism (that is, we should prove there are wrong if we disagree with their conclusions). But for sure, from all that I’ve read, a strong effort toward the use of clear and similar indicators among energy-economy models is needed (as this have been done in IPCC WG1 climate models). For the moment, each model ‘tinkers’ its own energy mix and cost estimations, but in the public debate, we need much more clarity about what we can and cannot choose, and at which cost.

    Ultimately, economic growth and climate change are particular points of a larger democratic debate. I remember here the Mike Hulme’s interesting essay, Why we disagree about climate change. We, citizens, have different and sometimes discordant attitudes toward nature, technology, risk, well-being, etc. These attitudes ultimately depends on our psychological traits, ideological convictions or ethical beliefs. What we can do here is to precise the basic facts, then to clarify our interpretations and to test their coherence, but I would say there is no reason (and probably no hope) to reach an ultimate consensus. That is particularly true for our most subjective judgments on capitalist or market-based societies. As a regular reader of 'degrowth' (negative growth) advocates, like for example Serge Latouche or Philippe Ariès for French authors, I observe that the frontier between growth as physically impossible trend and growth as ethically undesirable attitude is not very clear. As Tom put it in a previous message, a substantive judgement on growth is welcome as a starting point.
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  41. If these models conclude that we can preserve economic growth while substituting fossil to non-fossil energy sources in the next 40 years, I think we must conservatively give credence to these models for their realism (that is, we should prove there are wrong if we disagree with their conclusions).

    I thought Jacksons calculations would have laid this possibility to rest. Let me repeat it again:

    In his book ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ Jackson calculates how much we would need to reduce the product of energy intensity and carbon intensity (in units of CO2e/economic output) to meet a CO2e of 450 ppm by 2050 without adjusting GDP or population growth rates. In the absence of such controls, we would need to reduce this factor by 10 times faster than the present rate, that is a 21 fold improvement by that date relative to the present to meet this target! Some other scenarios regarding population or GDP growth would require a virtual complete de-carbonisation of our entire energy system.

    Nothing other than a revolution in energy generation could meet 450ppm whilst retaining economic growth. That is the gamble people are taking who reject this. Is this too different to the mentality of those who reject climate change altogether? Are they not all either Deniers or gamblers?
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  42. perseus @41, yes pursuing a low or zero emissions economy with continued population and economic growth is a gamble. That is the invidious position we have been placed in by the slow response to global warming. But ending economic growth as a deliberate policy, or population growth in the short term are not political possibilities, and shackling the response to global warming to those policies just makes any effective response to global warming less likely. Further, there is no instance in history (that I know of) in which either declining population or declining economies have not caused wide spread suffering. Further, rapid technological change with static economies will cause wide spread suffering as already discussed. So your proposal is also a gamble, and IMO a far greater gamble than the alternative.
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  43. "That is particularly true for a fast transition – people and society are not so flexible."

    I'm not so sure about that. afaik, most people really don't care how their power is generated unless they have a job in a mine or a generation facility. For transmission infrastructure, some engineers might be stick-in-the-muds who'd like to keep doing what they've always done, but there are many who'd really like to see more efficient and effective distribution systems. Users rarely care about the details as long as the power stays on.

    As for industry. Just pick the low-hanging fruit to start with. If they can save money on airconditioning and lighting - esp for administration facilities which they see as a cost burden on their productive processes anyway - they'll get a taste for it. And then look for ways to do things better with their core operations.

    For transport. People who already use public transport will welcome any improvements in services. People whose access to such services is poor at the moment will adopt useful services if they are provided. The only issue is how quickly they'll do so. It's just a question of design and how much governments or other agencies are willing to spend at start up before the frequency and quality of the service gets a good enough reputation for more and more people to use it.
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  44. I'm not sure Tom, it may proove more expensive to deliver a near zero carbon energy system than to stop economic growth. As an Engineer I know how hard and expensive it will be to deliver this without a scientific breakthrough.

    It might be possible to deliver 20% at present though green energy without breaking the bank, but a 80-90% reduction for an increased economy and population is a totally different matter. The demands on materials, storage costs, design for worst case meteological conditions is staggering. If we are struggling now, you haven't seen nothing yet. Simply foregoing needless toil and rubbish is so much easier than 9 bllion people forever trying to catch up with the Jones'

    Neither can I see any reason why simply forgoing buying even more stuff should lead to a crisis. Reductions in economic growth have previously been driven by some underlying crisis such as war or famine, and we are talking about steady state economy not a reduction.

    Japan has been a steady economy and a reducing population for 20 years now yet I see no evidence of widespread suffering or lack of innovation.

    Sometimes it can be better to be honest and tell people straight what is necessary to do the job 'Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country' or fellow human or planet in this case, rather than weak promises of ever greater riches. They might actually believe that.

    I guess the route is to move away from GDP metric altogether and towards a quality of life index then at least you could show them real improvements, than through fantasy economic figures.
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  45. perseus : I remember the estimates of Jackson in the chapter on the ‘myth of decoupling’, but I cannot examine precisely this for now. I think he is globally right, but I’d like to check the rate of energy intensity gain really implemented in some models (there are probably an inverse function of substitution rate).

    To be sure, a 450 scenario is at least a ‘gamble’ but I agree with Tom’s answer above. Not a substantive but a pragmatic consideration: take the time necessary to reach a policy consensus on negative growth ou zero growth, and we will probably double the CO2 concentration! Bluntly put : if, in a democratic system, people were really to choose between the immediate consequences of an organized stagnation / recession and the distant consequences of a 2K or 3 K warming, I bet most of them would prefer the second option. At least in some countries and, as 15 years of climate negotiations have shown, a global consensus on solutions is requested, because local efforts (like Kyoto Protocol) didn’t produce significant effects on emissions rate.

    adelady : I agree, but this is probably a matter of pace and scale. Small changes will cause small debates and opposition. For bigger change, you must anticipate much more resistance IMO. And there is also the macro-economic effect of an ambitious energy transition plan. If you take for example all the direct and indirect jobs related to car use in transportation (not just the engineers and workers in production industry, but all services, products and value chain centered on car), it is uneasy to plan a revolution in one generation. At least, the hypothesis of zero social friction is a gamble !
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  46. perseus "It might be possible to deliver 20% at present though green energy without breaking the bank, but a 80-90% reduction for an increased economy and population is a totally different matter."
    skept " Small changes will cause small debates and opposition. For bigger change, you must anticipate much more resistance IMO."

    All depends how it's done. In this state, we have 20% of our power already generated by wind, and more is planned. And they had to reduce the feed-in tariff offered on domestic solar because of the over-enthusiastic take-up. It's still pretty good, but it was fan.tas.tic.

    We have 3 possibilities when introducing changes of this sort. Opposition which increases, no-one notices or cares much, positive snowball effect. If you structure the changes carefully, you'll get more of the last two and the least possible of the opposition.
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  47. adelady

    Well yes it's possible to technically do it with enough subsidies.

    I presume it is Iowa you live in? It's analogous to Denmark because they can rely on larger surrounding states/countries to buffer the variability in supplies with conventional sources. I also recall the mid West is one of the best areas in the world for consistency in wind speeds, this is more important than average power.

    Unfortunately we in the UK have been driven offshore!

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    [DB] Please restrict image widths to 500 pixels or less.

  48. perseus : so, I read again Jackson's estimates and your summary was correct. For more details, in 2007, world produces 768 gCO2/$. In 2050, with 9 billion persons and 1,4% annual income growth, the objective of 36 gCO2/$ would imply a 7%/yr decrease in carbon intensity, whereas carbon intensity have decreased of only 0,7%/y since 1990. If we choose a higher population growth, or a higher income growth for the poorest nations, the rate of carbon intensity gain is even more irrealist. So, it seems to Jackson extremely unlikely that the decoupling of economic growth and fossil energy becomes a reality at a rate compatible with a 450 ppm CO2eq objective.

    Here on SkS , we can see how the IEA WEO scenario 450 plans this kind of reduction (figure 3) Jackson considers as very unlikely. IEA uses the Gt CO2 total emissions rather than gCO2/$, but prior assumption are nearly the same (except a more important income growth as I recall), and IEA stops in 2035 rather then 2050. Energy-economy models diverge in the detail of their choices. This Edenhorfer et al paper , for example, examines 5 models in their mitigation strategies and costs. Contrary to IEA WEO, gain in carbon intensity have a higher part in CO2 mitigation than gain in energy efficiency (see figure 5 and comment pp 28-29). But the problem is the same if we choose the Jackson description : a never seen rate of decarbonization either by specific carbon intensity gain or by general energy intensity gain.

    So clearly, as I've said when debating about these scenarios with Tom in an other thread, there are many gambles in the 450 scenarios: on nuclear progress, on CCS viability, on biofuel extension on energy efficiency, on decreasing ENR costs... and of course on political will. But have we another choice? According to IEA, ‘Non-OECD countries account for 90% of population growth, 70% of the increase in economic output and 90% of energy demand growth over the period from 2010 to 2035’. Even with an OECD stagnation, emissions would continue to increase in a business as usual scenario for non-OECD. How could we defend a policy agenda whose main message to the poorer countries would inevitably be : ‘hey, please, do not develop now, or just use for that low-carbon technologies and nothing else ?’
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  49. @48, the notion that developing nations need to decarbonize at the same rate and the same time as first world nations is one that needs to by firmly disabused. The WGBU in a 2009 report has shown that, if each nation is given an emissions quota based on 2010 population, third world nations can continue to increase carbon emissions for several decades (in some cases) before it becomes necessary to reduce them while still keeping cumulative carbon emissions under the trillionth tonne, which on standard estimates is the benchmark for avoiding warming greater than 2 degrees C. That places an onerouse (though justified) burden of reduction on OECD nations. More likely would be differential targets with emissions trading which will require third world nations to reduce emissions faster, but fund that reduction with the purchase of carbon credits from OECD nations. Clearly with such an approach third world nations need only adopt low emissions energy generation where that it particularly suitable to current needs, or after the technology has been developed and massively deployed thereby reducing cost.

    Fig 5.35 of the report. The caption reads:

    "Examples of per-capita CO2 emissions trajectories from fossil sources for three country groups under the WBGU budget approach. The broken curves show theoretical per-capita CO2 emissions trajectories without emissions trading. These would allow compliance with the national budgets, but would be partly unrealistic in practice. The unbroken curves show emissions trajectories that could result from emissions trading. It is assumed that Group 1 countries increase their budget by 75% by purchasing emission allowances for 122 Gt CO2. Group 2 countries purchase emission allowances totalling 41 Gt CO2. The suppliers of the sum total, i.e. 163 Gt CO2, are the Group 3 countries, resulting in a decrease of around 43% in their own emissions budget. Towards the end of the budget period, convergence of real CO2 emissions occurs at around 1 t per capita per year (based on the population in 2010). The areas between the curves represent the traded quantities of emission allowances. As this is a per-capita presentation and the country groups have different populations, the total of the areas between the curves for the buying Groups 1 and 2 is not equal to the area between the curves of the selling Group 3. Country groups are organized according to CO2 emissions per capita per year from fossil sources, whereby CO2 emissions are estimates for 2008 and population figures are estimates for 2010. Red: country group 1 (>5.4 t CO2 per capita per year), mainly industrialized countries (e.g. EU, USA, Japan), but also oil-exporting countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Venezuela) and a small number of newly-industrializing countries (e.g. South Africa, Malaysia). Orange: country group 2 (2.7–5.4 t CO2 per capita per year), which includes many newly-industrializing countries (e.g. China, Mexico, Thailand). Green: country group 3 (<2.7 t CO2 per capita per year), above all developing countries (e.g. Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Vietnam), but also some large newly industrializing countries (e.g. India, Brazil).
    Source: WBGU"
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  50. Tom : thank you for the reference. I don't know if South Africa citizens and government would appreciate to be in the Group I (immediate cuts) or if Algeria is ready for stabilization and transition (Groupe II). The 45 poorest nations of the world, with less than 0,5 t CO2/capita/y, were not especially in my mind because it seems obvious we have no ethical basis for blocking their growth even if carbon-based. But the ~100 intermediate and emerging countries, often still far poorer than we (OECD) are and without all the basic infrastructures of a developed society, would have for most of them to stabilize their CO2 emissions around 2025 and then to keep their economic growth up while decarbonizing their energy mix… hmm, it's hard for me to imagine this could be done. Of course, a cap and trade CO2 market would favor massive investments transfer from North to South. But basic infrastructures need steel, cement, all sort of raw or transformed materials I don't know how to extract and produce without fossil fuel in such a short period (15 years!), or without high costs contradictory with the need for growth in these countries. And the same is true for transportation without oil (one basis of trade and growth is mobility). But these diverse and vague questions are summarized in Jackson's challenge, to mute very rapidly at a global scale from a 0,7% to a 7% annual carbon intensity gain —without creating social, economic or environmental drawbacks which would dislocate the consensus for climate reforms. A gamble, for sure.
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