31. 03. 2009

Prosperity Without Growth?

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Comments (30)

At last, the Sustainable Development Commission’s magnum opus has landed. Prosperity Without Growth? was launched on Monday, representing the culmination of five year’s work. Tim Jackson, our Economics Commissioner has produced an absolute ‘tour de force’. And there’s a lot riding on this for the Commission.

Way back in the mists of time, through the 70s and into the early 80s, there was an extremely lively debate about the compatibility between economic growth and big-picture resource and sustainability issues. Heavyweight economists batted academic papers back and forth; party political conferences formally debated the pros and cons of economic growth. All this was nicely stoked up by the two Opec-induced oil shocks, and even the media were all over it. Then oil prices came plunging back down, Jimmy Carter got stuffed by Ronald Reagan, and free-market fundamentalists began their long march through the knackered ranks of superannuated Keynesians.

The consequence of which has been hardly any serious discussion about economic growth and sustainability since then. Unbelievable, in retrospect, as even a fool could tell you that if you continue to grow both the number of human beings and the volume of goods and services consumed by each of those human beings, on a planet with limited resources and stressed-out life support systems, then you are heading inevitably for a bust. Sooner or later.

Politicians of all persuasions have hugely enjoyed their 20-year leave of absence. But it’s an inexcusable dereliction of duty to go on avoiding this crunch point in the light of what’s been happening over the last few years – with oil going to $147 a barrel, food reserves at their lowest level for decades, chronic water shortages the world over, accelerating climate change and so on. Paradoxically, the collapse in the global economy gives us some breathing space – but not much. If it’s back to business-as-usual, growth-at-all-costs as the sole route to progress, then biophysical reality will not long be delayed.

Politicians have got used to using one get-out clause in terms of avoiding any intellectual encounter with that crunch point: decoupling. Just decouple the benefits of economic growth from its costs (or externalities, as economists call them) through technology-driven resource efficiency, and all will be well.

If only. One of the toughest messages in "Prosperity Without Growth?" comes in Tim Jackson’s clinical critique of "the myth of decoupling". The reality is that even progress on relative decoupling (reduced environmental impact per unit of GDP) has been limited, whilst progress on absolute decoupling (reduced environmental impact, full stop - which is what we have to achieve) has been non-existent.

That isn’t to deny the critical significance of decoupling. We desperately need far more of it than anything we’ve seen so far. Which means governments have got to do it, rather than just talk about it, even as they come to the inconvenient conclusion that it won’t be enough on its own anyway.

Politicians may not want to hear these messages. But it’s our task to broadcast them much more loudly and much more clearly than we’ve done over the last 20 years. And "Prosperity Without Growth?" is what you need to make that happen.

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Comments

01. 04. 2009
Martin Parkinson

I've recommended Tim Jackson's previous "motivating sustainable consumption" to lots of people - he seems to do his reading thoroughly and is careful in his conclusions. On a brief glimpse, "prosperity without growth" looks worthwhile too.

01. 04. 2009
Tim Worstall

"The consequence of which has been hardly any serious discussion about economic growth and sustainability since then. Unbelievable, in retrospect, as even a fool could tell you that if you continue to grow both the number of human beings and the volume of goods and services consumed by each of those human beings,"

Economic growth is not measured or described as an increase in the volume of goods and services consumed...nor produced.

Economic growth (GDP for example) is defined as an increase in the value added in the economy.

If you cannot even grasp that basic fact about economic growth why do you presume to lecture the rest of us on economics?

01. 04. 2009
Spamlet

Google "Define: "Economic Growth""

http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLG_enGB308GB308&q=define%3a+%22Economic+Growth%22

Porritt 13
Worstall 0

"If you cannot even grasp that basic fact about economic growth why do you presume to lecture the rest of us on economics?"

Indeed.

S

01. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Jonathan, maybe your Sustainable Development Commission has a lot riding on its "magnum opus" but if your previous efforts in environmentalism and sustainability are anything to go by it will be of no value at all for the rest of the UK. The Sustainable Development Commission is nothing but another waste of taxpayers money. I refer you to a 30th March post by Tony on Mark Lynas's blog "A new green era" which mentions yourself and your "lucky break" associate. "Oh wuild guid God the gifty gee us to see oorselves as others see us" (apologies to Rabbie if I misquoted and misspelled his words).

When reminiscing about "Way back in the midst’s of time" you overlooked the "global cooling" scare in the 70's. Why? If you're still around in the 2030's you'll still be peddling your environmentalist propaganda but will make no mention of the current "global warming" scam.

It should be obvious (even to an idiot) "that if you .. grow both the number of human beings and the volume of goods and services consumed .. on a planet with limited resources and stressed-out life support systems, then you are heading inevitably for a bust". What you choose to overlook is that Planet Earth is nowhere near that extreme. There is still lots of space and lots of resources (e.g. water, food, fossil fuel, minerals, etc.) to be enjoyed by many more humans, the only problem is exploiting it economically and making it accessible to everyone. Global economic development will achieve that in time. The current economic situation is merely another slight set back to be followed by further successful development across the globe for the benefit of more and more humans as we get "back to business-as-usual".

You know as well as I do that Politicians will continue to totally ignore your messages other than to use them to attract votes and collect money. You can broadcast them as much and as loudly and as clearly as you like. It will make absolutely no difference to global development. You and your charities will never halt global economic growth because it has its foundation in human aspiration for a better life. People like yourself (and your "lucky break" associate) whose only achievement is to have been born to enjoy obscene privilege all of their lives will never accept this, but fighting it is doomed to failure.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

PS: I was delighted to see that the environmentalist "lights out" exercise on Saturday fizzled out with virtually no impact - very similar to the impact that humans have on global climates. It was totally ignored by the overwhelming majority of people around the globe. I was in Edinburg at the time and the only switch-off was of the lights on the castle (the expected token gesture by politicians). Everyone else ignored it - thank goodness life goes on as normal, despite the scare-mongering by you and your environmentalists.

01. 04. 2009
cm

From Sullivan, Arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action (and currently Wikipedia's first sentence on the topic):
"Economic growth is the increase in the amount of the goods and services produced by an economy over time."

Seems pretty consistent with Porritt's take.

If we're lucky, advances in technology may permit perpetual growth.
Let's hope that technology keeps its side of the bargain.

02. 04. 2009
Glenn Vowles

'I honestly believe that if the Government and/or the scientific establishment told you the World was getting physically smaller, you'd accept it.'
(Justin Gudgeon).

What is wrong with the following scientific processes, used to investigate the world: questioning, hypothesising, testing, experimentation and evidence gathering, analysis and results discussion, peer review and explaining results using theories??

03. 04. 2009
Dan Green

@Pete Ridely, ref the supposed "global cooling" scare in the 70's.

Sample: published articles in scientific literature between 1965-1980 that predicted, implied or provided supporting evidence for future global climate change (warming, cooling or neutral)

What do you suppose was the ratio between those that foresaw warming and those that foresaw cooling?

Answer: 6:1

See http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/131047.pdf

ps the 'neutral' articles were also greatly outnumbered by the 'warming' articles

07. 04. 2009
Richard Lawson

I find it is helpful to ask proponents of growth whether they accept the axioms that it is impossible to grow forever into a finite space, and take forever from a finite resource.

14. 04. 2009
Joe K

Jonathon, what part does Fair Shares, which you are the patron of, play in this 'prosperity without growth'?

I searched this blog: "No pages were found containing 'fair shares'."

16. 04. 2009
Fr. Peter

Interesting take Mr. Ridley, presumably all the findings of the Met Office scientists and the evidence of our own eyes are wrong and a mistake. As for carbon dioxide being 'good' so is water, but not if you are drowning in the stuff and as for Gordon Brown appeasing environmentalists, I must have missed that one.....

02. 04. 2009
Justin Gudgeon

To my certain knowledge, we have been hearing this 'end of the world' scenario for at least 50 years, The "crunch point" you refer to, is never a single point but merely a series of headlines which the gullable middle-class always seem to fall for. Whatever the Government or their paid scientists say, the middle-class believe. Whatever big business says, the middle-class believe.

The truth is, it is not "avoiding any intellectual encounter" which causes these regular crunch points but the crass stupidity of our middle-class consensus. Politicians and intellectuals alike, always run to the side of the boat that's already 'gunwhale under'. Did YOU buy oil at $147 a barrel?

I honestly believe that if the Government and/or the scientific establishment told you the World was getting physically smaller, you'd accept it. And if, as a result, you were then told to live in a smaller house, you would. You really would!

02. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Glen (Vowles), you never did get back to me on Jonathan's "Globalism" blog after my post of 15th Oct. When I challenged your willingness to accept the environmentalist propaganda regarding human-made global warming. The debate on that blog dried up shortly afterwards and you didn't take up my invitation to join in the debate on Mark Lynas's "World Saved" blog. Is this because you are unable to cope with "following scientific processes, used to investigate the world: questioning, hypothesising, testing, experimentation and evidence gathering, analysis and results discussion, peer review and explaining results using theories??" such as presented by those many scientists who reject the politically motivated hypothesis of significant human-made global warming.

I've checked up on your contributions to other blogs and see that you never apply the scientific process yourself. Is this because you, like Jonathan, are not in any way scientifically inclined (see his propaganda booklet "Playing Safe: Science and the Environment")?

Spamlet, you don't seem to have much to offer either, but prove me wrong by taking up the challenge that I issued to dedicated environmentalists Jonathan Porritt, his "Forum for the Future" charity, his "Sustainable Development Commission", Mark Lynas, etc. etc. etc. This challenge is to refute the scientific findings of the experts summarised in my paper "Politicization of Climate Change & CO2", available on the Climate Science Coalition Web-site at:-
http://nzclimatescience.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=374&Itemid=1.

I refer you to my post of 28th Feb. on Jonathan's "Green New Deals" blog. This challenge has been persistently ignored by environmentalists because you have no sound scientific facts to back up your support of the myth about significant human-made global warming.

I invite both of you (Spamlet and Glen) to put up or shut up.

Justin, you are spot on with your implication about the gullibility if you are including those who believe that humans have any significant impact upon global climates.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

03. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Jonathan, in your "Pre-budget Talk" blog "Renewables" crusader Mark Harrison commented "Ever the optimist...I still live and work in hope that action still speaks louder than words". It was interesting to see which actions spoke loudest during this week's demonstrations in London by "rent-a-rabble". The media, as we all know only reports on those items that the general public most willingly pays good money to be informed about. Top hat and coat-tailed anthropologist Professor Chris Knight, reported as being "the public face of G20 Meltdown, the umbrella group which represents more than 100 protest factions" and his loony anarchists were given enormous coverage as they bravely stormed an empty RBS building and destroyed some of its contents. What a wonderful constructive contribution to society that was! They didn't even have the courage to expose show their faces. In contrast, Professor Knight's climate change protest faction enjoyed hardly a mention.

How beautifully that illustrates the level of significance for the general public the human-made climate change myth has in relation to the realities of our existence on this wonderful planet.

Thinking about this, I wonder if Gary of www.humanecologist.co.uk fame (contributor to your "Pre-budget Talk" blog) is a follower of Professor Knight and was present at the protests. Gary, the philosophies behind human ecology and anthropology appear to me to be very closely linked. Perhaps you'd like to explain for me the difference between your arguments and those of Professor Knight, particularly in relation to the myth of significant human-made climate change. While you're at it, how about taking up my challenge issued to all dedicated environmentalists but not yet responded to by any (see my previous post)

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

PS: Despite what I say repeatedly about the human-made climate change myth, I fully support any actions and appeals to cut out our waste of resources. I have said for years that rather than our standard of living improving it is our level of wastage that has increased most significantly. The Inland Revenue has just demonstrated this perfectly. Just received in the post SEVEN separate letters in separate envelopes from the same source on the same day with 99% identical wording. A single letter could have been used to convey the same information. But who cares? It's only a Government agency using seven times as much taxpayers money and natural resources such as paper, energy, etc. etc. Mark, perhaps you'd like to reflect on your words "Ever the optimist...I still live and work in hope that action still speaks louder than words".
Regards again, PR

17. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

In its "The Weather Show" on 10th April the BBC pushed its climate change propaganda again, making its usual gesture towards meeting its charter's "impartiality" requirement. Weather man Peter Gibbs presented some useful information was about our current understanding of "a very complex system to understand" (but omitted to mention that climate is much more complex, almost chaotic). He spoiled things when describing the natural phenomena that control our global weather and climates by slipping in the myth about humans having a significant impact. Still pretending to be impartial the BBC allowed four "believers" and three "deniers " to put forward some views. Unsurprisingly the qualifications in relevant physical sciences of the interviewees chosen by the BBC was biased in favour of the believers (see Note 1), not because no such qualified UK-based deniers exist (Note 2), but it does help the propaganda!

The expected pictures of catastrophic weather events were thrown in for starters in support of the implication that human-made climate change promised us all a terrible future. There were moving pictures of ice-melts, floods, droughts, sandstorms, tsunamis and heat-waves just to give us a scare, but no impartial movies of any events being enjoyed around the globe in beautiful weather. Neither was there real emphasis on the fact that the world has experienced extreme weather events since before humans started burning fossil fuels.

This was followed by the interviews. David Shuckman started by asking the silly question "Do you believe in climate change?". Anyone with a brain would say "yes" to the obvious, especially as Peter Gibbs had already explained about climates changing since the world began.. Shuckman's next question was "What is causing climate change?".

Jonathan proclaimed with utter conviction that he doesn't think there is any doubt any longer that the principle reason behind climate change are the emissions that we human beings are putting into the atmosphere (Note 5). Like most environmentalists, Jonathan chooses to completely ignore the doubts repeatedly expressed by the many sceptical scientists who are much better qualified than he to proclaim on the subject (Note 3).
Professor Parry said he believed that almost all big climate change seen recently to have been man-made due essentially to the emission of so-called greenhouse gases.
Professor Watson (who can hardly be considered impartial - Note 6), had absolutely no doubt that the only way to explain the observed changes in temperature are by invoking human activity, the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation (Note 4).
Sir David King declared that the predominant factor behind climate change is driven by human beings, on the one hand our use of fossil fuels and on the other deforestation (Note 4).
So these four all believe that emissions caused by human are the main causes of global climate and temperature change (Note 5).
Mr. Livermore, on the contrary, mentioned the much more significant climate controllers, solar and sunspot activity and pointed out the current global cooling trend (Note 5).
Lord Lawson acknowledged that man-made carbon dioxide emissions no doubt have a warming effect but climate scientists are divided about how big that effect is. Natural factors have a considerable effect and this side of the climate science is very little understood which is why the computer projections have proved to be so unreliable (Note 6).

There were more pictures of catastrophic weather events, then Shuckman's next question "How should the world respond?"

Professor Parry said that emissions must be reduced soon. Sir David expressed concern about managing a 9 Billion population. Mr. Livermore was worried about economic damage. Dr Peiser referred to the "believer" arguments as "crying wolf" and claimed that governments are no longer listening to the Cassandra calls of climate scientists and are no longer taking that advice because they've heard it for the last 20 years. Finally Jonathan declared that if we don't start doing something in the next 5 years, 10 at the latest, then we really may have missed this window of opportunity to avoid irreversible climate change (Note 5).

Then we had more of those "extreme weather" movies followed by some beautiful viewers' stills of winter scenes (to prepare us for the next ice age, I suppose). In the propaganda stakes the BBC won by miles. The finale was a joke about the program director's "carbon footprint" odour. That bit I really did enjoy, after all, the myth of significant human-made global warming through burning fossil fuels is just a big political joke.

For those of you gullible enough to swallow the BBC propaganda, relax. The "denier" climate scientists are increasingly exposing the flaws in the "believer" arguments.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

Notes:
1) Believers were Professor Martin Parry, Imperial College London; Professor Robert Watson (Ref. 1), Director of Strategic Development at the Tyndall Centre; Sir David King, Ph.D. (Chemistry), Director of the Smith School at Oxford University; Jonathan Porritt, no scientific qualifications.
Deniers were Dr Benny Peiser Senior Lecturer at John Moore's University, Liverpool; Lord Nigel Lawson, ex financial journalist, editor of The Spectator, Member of Parliament and Chancellor of the Exchequer; Martin Livermore , Director of the Scientific Alliance;
2) There are many prestigious sceptical Professors and Doctors. to choose from, 9 being members of the Scientific Alliance, including an IPCC expert reviewer and Professors from Universities of London, East London, Edinburg and Plymouth, King's College, University College in London, an Imperial College Chemist and a UK atmospheric scientist, ex Met Office weatherman. (Some of their opinions are presented in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (Minority Report).
Jonathan's dearth of uncertainty about humans causing significant global climate change is in stark contrast with his opinion in his propaganda booklet "Playing Safe: .." in 2000 when he said that ".. that's exactly the problem with climate change. We're talking about ..innumerable different scientific disciplines .. and about uncertainty piled upon uncertainty ..".
They claim that deforestation by burning causes a further 20% increase in greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans (i.e. less than 1% of all emissions). So, does deforestation by humans have any significant long-term impact upon the environment or global climates - NO - and there is plenty of everyday evidence showing this, e.g:
much of the Northern hemisphere was once covered in forest but has been deforested to the benefit of humans and other forms of life without causing catastrophic climate change,
vegetation cover returns naturally and very quickly to areas turned into "deserts" by humans but subsequently left untouched,
I leave it as an exercise in open-minded thought for other suggestions.
I'm surprised that the "believers" didn't throw in the much more serious living emitters of greenhouse gases, e.g. cattle (a single cow emits over 1 ton of carbon dioxide a year plus all of that CH4 they belch out from both ends), sheep, rabbits, etc. and all of the other non-human forms of life.
According to the Hadley Centre the temperature record for the past 11 years shows a falling global temperature trend. In "Playing Safe: .." Jonathan proclaimed that ".. the warning signals we're picking up now will have been triggered by emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases at least a decade ago ..". On that basis, he must believe that the present cooling trend arises from human emissions during the 80's. Since we have continued increasing our emissions since then it surely follows that human emissions must be responsible for this cooling and are pushing us towards an ice age.

6) Dr. Watson was one of the IPCC’s three chief ideologues, along with Dr. John Houghton, head of the UK Met. Office and the late Professor Bert Bolin, according to "Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change", editor S. Fred Singer of The Heartland Institute in 2008. Amongst other arguments from sceptical scientist, it also highlights the deficiencies in the computer models of climate science.

17. 05. 2009
Martin

This report is further sad evidence that population remains the unmentionable elephant in discussing sustainability. The 136 pages may be a tour de force, but they take a notable detour around the issue of population, taking it for granted that the global population will reach 9 billion and more.

This is highly relevant to the issue of decoupling, because the true equation should be: utility-per-person divided by impact-per-planet. Slowing and reversing the growth in population doesn't reduce the need to think hard about whether economic growth really benefits us, or how to achieve it more efficiently, but it is one piece of the problem.

17. 05. 2009
Martin

ps: Our host, of course, is remarkable for not ignoring the issue, such as in linking to this good report: http://www.jonathonporritt.com/pages/2007/05/population_boom_and_bust.html

03. 04. 2009
Peter Morgan

I fully agree that Prosperity without Growth is a seminal work, clearly and unequivocally spelling out the incompatibility of perceptual economic growth with sustainable development. I read it with a huge sense of personal relief as I’ve always assumed that I’ve somehow failed to grasp some fundamental economic principles. I’ve always been perplexed that intelligent world leaders can speak, with straight faces, of “sustainable economic growth” and I’ve struggled to reconcile such statements with logic. Having read Professor Jackson’s report I now know why I struggled; it’s irreconcilable!

While I may feel better about my ability to understand these matters, I certainly do not feel at all good at the magnitude of the task ahead. Can we really reconstruct global macroeconomics and social norms within a generation or two? We certainly need to try!

04. 04. 2009
james greyson

Yes, absolute decoupling hasn't happened over past decades. We're less sustainable now than then. But I wouldn't pin the blame on weak-willed technology-obsessed politicians. They're just following their tram-line, not knowing any better. Sorry, the blame must go overwhelmingly to the parallel tram-line of environmentalists opposing economic growth of any kind. By failing to conceive or promote an entirely new direction for growth, greens in general and the SDC in particular have unwittingly provided business-as-usual with the excuse they needed to dismiss the mainstreaming of sustainability.

It's a tragedy. Those greens with the loudest voice and the most influence in government have squandered an entire generation of opportunities to escape both tram-lines simply by demonstrating the flexibility of thought that they expect of society as a whole. It would have been easy at any moment over the past 30 years to consider how the financial flows of economic growth could be separated from the material flows of consumerist growth. To instead devote all this time to confusing the two is quite something.

04. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Dan (Green), Thanks for that interesting paper you referenced. It provides some helpful information on the history of climate change science but does present a somewhat biased picture, which is to be expected when the NERC is involved.

1) Regarding the 70s cooling scare, your "What do you suppose was the ratio between those that foresaw warming and those that foresaw cooling? Answer: 6:1" for the period 1965 to 1980 becomes irrelevant if you concentrate on the period in debate, i.e. the cooling scare during the 70s. Comparing the papers in the period up to 1977, 9 suggest warming while 13 suggest "cooling" (6) or are "neutral" (7). The paper itself acknowledges that "By the EARLY 1970s .. the notion of a global cooling trend was WIDELY ACCEPTED... The first satellite records showed increasing snow and ice cover across the northern hemisphere from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, capped by unusually severe winters in Asia and parts of North America in 1972 and 1973 .. The new data about global temperatures came amid growing concerns about world food supplies, triggering fears that a planetary cooling trend might threaten humanity’s ability to feed itself .."

It was not until the LATE 70's that it was suggested that this was only a Northern Hemisphere phenomenon, with the claim that "A closer examination of Southern Hemisphere data showed that what appeared to be a global cooling trend was in fact dominated by Northern Hemisphere temperatures, while thermometers in the Southern Hemisphere seemed to be headed in the opposite direction".

It is relevant to note that having observed 10 years of cooling since 1998, the Hadley Centre is up to similar statistical manipulation by changing its way of handling the global temperature data to counter this trend. I cover this point more fully in my submissions to Mark Lynas's "World Saved - Planet Doomed" blog on 31st December 2008, 4th & 5th January. I posted a related comment on 10th March to Mark's "A New Green ERA" blog which includes comments about the NERC. You may be interested in responding to these.

2) I was interested to see that the paper acknowledges that peer review is not a pre-requisite for scientific validity. It states "However, a few prestigious reports that may not have been peer-reviewed have been included in this literature survey as they clearly represent the science of their day". This applies equally to scientific papers published on the INTERNET by the sceptical climate scientists.

3) The paper mentions the Nobel prize awarded to the IPCC (and Mr Gore). What it does not make clear is that his was not by scientists for climate science but by politicians for politics. In my opinion that has as much significance as human-made global warming, i.e. negligible.

4) The paper, like the IPCC scientific reports (but unlike the IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers) is full of uncertainty about whether or not humans are responsible for significant global climate change. The simple reason for this is that the hypothesis itself is shrouded in uncertainty.

Since you've joined in the debate how about taking up my challenge issued to all dedicated environmentalists but not yet responded to by any (see my post of 2nd April). I eagerly await a sound scientific analysis that identifies the flaws in the papers that I summarise, but I won't hold my breath. Incidentally, those papers were not taken into consideration by the IPCC in its AR4 because they totally undermine its position regarding human-made global warming.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

PS: Guess what I had in the post this morning. Yes, it was another mailing from the Inland Revenue (see my previous posting). This one letter covered everything in the previous seven in one fell swoop, so we now have an example of how our wonderful Labour Government uses eight times the resources necessary to achieve its objective. If our dear Mr Brown and his colleagues "save the world" as they save the taxpayers money we're all doomed. I'm sure that will delight Professor Knight and his followers.

07. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Richard, on 3rd March Glenn Vowles put a similar question on Jonathan's "Green New Deals" blog when he said "Pete Ridley (or should that be Leo Tolstoy?) - how can we achieve continuous economic growth on a finite planet??"

I repeat what I said then: QUOTE "did I say or imply anywhere that we could "achieve continuous economic growth on a finite planet". I fully appreciate that there is an ultimate limit, but we are nowhere near it yet. UNQUOTE

There are still enormous amounts of natural resources to be exploited by humans for the benefit of humans. Humans have demonstrated over millenia how clever we are at making the most of what nature has made available to us. All that we have to do is make sure thsat we minimise the amount of damage that we do.

Keep smiling, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

08. 04. 2009
Andrew Dobson

Tim Jackson's report is brilliant. Above all it cuts through the debates on the various 'Green New Deals' on offer to the heart of the matter: a GND designed simply to restore the status quo ante is pointless (for that's what led to trouble in the first place). Here's the key bit:

'There is no consistent vision of an economy founded
on consumption growth that delivers absolute
decoupling. And the systemic drivers of growth push
us relentlessly towards ever more unsustainable
resource throughput. A different way of ensuring
stability and maintaining employment is essential.
A different kind of economic structure is needed
for an ecologically-constrained world.'

09. 04. 2009
james greyson

Thanks Richard for your question about what's finite. Human-made Pete Ridley serves the role of representing business as usual, as one end of a noisy but empty "no growth, yes growth" debate. If we cannot do better then it will be civilisation itself which is finite.

Richard, what we're missing is that some things are finite and other things can grow. The environmentalist debate since the late 60s has simplified these real-world distinctions into a no-growth-of-anything steady-state intellectual rigor mortis. I believe this explains why Kenneth Boulding's 1966 paper on spaceship economics (http://www.eoearth.org/article/The_Economics_of_the_Coming_Spaceship_Earth_(historical) ) has been heralded ever since as a no-growth doctrine, when actually it revealed the basis of continuing growth in value based on fast-shrinking circulations of resources and fast-rising co-operation.

In other words, if we can imagine that the current linear growth model is not the only option for doing economic growth then we can start to talk about the value of human endeavour being ultimately unlimited. If we think we're only as good as the next batch of resources and human rights being discarded, then we face a gloomy future of eco-dictatorship or eco-collapse.

11. 04. 2009
Sandwichman

What needs to be remembered -- and repeated often -- is that the growth paradigm takes as its benchmark a measurement that is highly selective with regard to economic activities, let alone ecology.

Household production DOES NOT COUNT in the GDP statistics but if there is a shift from production for self to production for exchange, it counts as "growth". Similarly a shift to leisure from the production and consumption of trinkets that go directly into landfills counts as a loss.

Prosperity without "growth" is NOT prosperity without (actual) growth. It is prosperity without the growth of superfluous waste that has become an essential component of the growth paradigm. The self-styled classical liberals who claim they don't want the government telling people what they should or shouldn't do have no problem with the government exclusively promoting the growth of a narrow category of activities captured in the national income accounts. It turns out they DO want the government to tell people what to do as long as it's work and spend.

According to Tim Worstall's and Pete Ridley's logic, it would be better all around if I were to play slot machines all day than if I were to read a book, swim a mile, sing in a choir or paint a picture because playing a slot machine "contributes to economic growth".

28. 04. 2009
Eileen Noakes

When it became clear that Gordon Brown was determined to build more nuclear power stations, I wrote to my MP to ask what reason the government had to believe that the storage of nuclear waste could be guaranteed not to cause appalling environmental problems for future generations. I received a long and detailed reply saying absolutely nothing.

When the decision to build coal-fired stations was announced, I wrote again to ask if sufficient research had been done to establish that the carbon pumped to the bottom of the ocean for storage could be guaranteed not to cause environmental damage. Just a few days later it was announced that ocean life was being destroyed by acidity, caused by CO2, presumably the old acid rain syndrome. Can we be certain that the latter would not be exacerbated by the former?

11. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Andrew (Dobson), are you referring to the present state of world economies (especially those of the UK and USA) when saying "a GND designed simply to restore the status quo ante is pointless (for that's what led to trouble in the first place)"? The troubles arising from the current economic downturn are mainly due to the stupidity of individuals unable to control their personal budgets, along with the greed of those eager to capitalise on this stupidity (see my "household economics" comments of 23rd Nov. 11th Dec 2008 on Mark Lynas's "World Saved .. Planet Doomed" blog.

You may well consider that "Tim Jackson's report is brilliant" but can you or he explain what this essential "different way of ensuring stability and maintaining employment .. " and this "different kind of economic structure" for this "ecologically-constrained world". Many dreamers before Tim Jackson at least offered what appeared to be brilliant ideas, even though they turned out to be unworkable. Our present global economic system, although not yet perfect (we still have obscene unearned privilege and enormous prosperity gaps) is the best we have managed yet, despite attempts to develop alternatives. The imperfections of the present system arise mainly from our instinct for survival, but that's nature for you.

James (Greyson), you may see me as representing "business as usual" but have me completely wrong. I abhor the waste that is "business as usual" for the majority of people fortunate enough to live in developed economies. These suffer from what I call the "Loréal Disease" - have it "because you're worth it" not because you need it. We could live comfortably on much less of the resources that we use. Although many of these resources are finite, this does not mean that we are going to run out of them soon, even if we continue wasting as we do at present. They will last far longer if we stop wasting so much. Another thing to remember is that humans demonstrate a wonderful ability to survive (and even prosper) in the most deprived circumstances.

As for your comment "then it will be civilisation itself which is finite", life on earth is finite, but you, I, our children or our children's children will be around when the final "eco-collapse" occurs, so there's no need to panic, unless of course we have that nuclear war..

Keep enjoying all of those wonderful improvements humans have made to their environments.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

PS: Jonathan, although you have the decency to encourage open debate by publishing comments from those of us who disagree with you, your charity Forum for the Future still persists in refusing to publish mine (see my comment of 26th Feb. on your Green New Deals blog). Text identical to your original posting on this blog was posted on theirs, with invitations to submit comments. On 4th April I submitted to them the identical comment that you published here on 1st April. The Forum for the Future blog still shows no comments from anyone. Perhaps all have been critical. This reluctance to debate reflects very badly on yourself, Jonathan. You really should sort them out.

Pete R.

05. 05. 2009
Tex

What a relief to find a report that offers a new economic and social paradigm for the world.

When I close my eyes and think about my world I see a Chinese girl making my cloth in a sweat shop for less then one percent of the price I pay for it.

I feel the fear of the African boy risking his life to mine the coltan needed for my cell phone so I can call my friends.

I fear the dictators that are being kept on their thrones by my government and the company I work for so we get access to cheap commodities.

I mourn the slaves that died for the diamond that symbolises my love.

I taste the death of the millions of cows, pigs and chickens slaughtered every day so I can eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and die of heart disease.

I search the dead zones in oceans and man-made deserts looking for the abundant life that was still there not so long ago.

I see perpetual war for the profit of the rich over the dead bodies of the innocent.

I apologise to my unborn child for he has to carry the debts of the follies of guilty bankers. Carry the debt of all our follies.

If this is an economy based on growth I am willing to change.

14. 05. 2009
Pete Ridley

OK Tex, so you close your eyes, feel fear, fear dictators, mourn slaves. taste death. search dead zones, see war and appologise to . It would also be very interesting to know what worthwhile thing you do, what sacrifices you make, to improve the lot of all of those life forms affected by the present social and economic structures. I'm guessing that you enjoy many of the benefits of these structures, but if I am mistaken and you really make significant sacrifices then I sincerely appologise.

Life isn't perfect and many people globally suffer unbelievable deprivation which can only be relieved through economic growth. Others (including many if not most environmentalists) enjoy what I consider to be relatively obscene privilege yet have the audacity to try to impose restraint on those endeavouring to improve their lot through economic growth. Despite these inequalities, I'd much rather be around now than 100 years ago, when conditions for the majority in this country were much worse than now. Economic growth has reduced the level of deprivation here, despite the unfair disparities that still exist and will do the same for the developing economies globally.

Meanwhile, as none of us stick around for long (only a flash in terms of the existance of life on earth) I intend to continue enjoying what I see as a good life as much as possible for as long as possible. This includes using energy from fossil fuels as long as it is available and cheaper than alternatives. There is no scientific consensus that humans cause significant global climate change. There are only theories that remain to be substantiated, hence the debate between scientists.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic.

12. 04. 2009
Pete Ridley

Jonathan, introducing its "Redefining Prosperity" project's major report: 'Prosperity without growth?" your Sustainable Development Commission claims that "Two objectives other than growth – sustainability and wellbeing – have moved up the political and policy-making agenda in recent years, challenging the overriding priority traditionally given to economic growth. .. ". This is absolute balderdash. Everyone knows that at the very top of virtually every politician's agenda is (and always has been) their own personal sustainability, well-being and economic growth. You have only to look into their expense claims (and their reluctance to disclose them) to find the evidence of that.

Under the title of Redefining Prosperity" the Sustainable Development Commission site states:
QUOTE: Prosperity without growth? proposes twelve steps towards a sustainable economy and argues for a redefinition of "prosperity" in line with evidence about what contributes to people’s wellbeing". UNQUOTE The Commission and all of its commissioners (including Economics Commissioner Tim Jackson of "Prosperity Without Growth?" fame) must be living in a dream world where everyone is wealthy, privileged and concerned only with protecting the environment. It is time that you all woke up.

The vast majority of people on earth suffer serious deprivation. For them "Prosperity without growth?" is nonsense. They know that the greatest contribution to their well-being would be made by significant economic growth. What gives you and your fellow commissioners, with all of the privilege you were born into and continue to enjoy, the right to propose "redefining prosperity" for all of those deprived millions around the globe whose major concern is to feed, cloth and house themselves and their loved ones. I find it hypocritical in the extreme for people like yourself to feign concern that "Even in developed countries, huge gaps remain in wealth and well-being between rich and poor". Do you or your associates do anything worthwhile to reduce this gap, e.g. by transferring significant amounts of your own wealth to those who are so less fortunate? Instead you spend your time dreaming up "12 steps" that have absolutely no relevance for them.

So the SDC has ".. sent the report to the Prime Minister, government leaders in the devolved administrations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and other government ministers, as well as business and civil society leaders." What will this achieve - absolutely nothing. It will be consigned to the dustbin where it belongs. Why? Because self-interest is the major driver for not only politicians but each and every one of us, no matter where we stand in the privilege pecking order. There is a real world out there about which the members of the SDC and their environmentalist associates appear to have little understanding.

Your Sustainable Development Commission is just a waste of taxpayers' money, established by the Government as a gesture to environmentalists, hoping to give the impression of concern in order to attract their votes. The SDC is never going to be taken seriously by any politicians (or any realists). For the foreseeable future Labour politicians have far more important things to worry about, such as how they will earn a living after the next general election.

It is quite clear that the "political and policy-making agenda" of Gordon Brown, Barack Obama and all of the other world leaders includes neither "Prosperity Without Growth" nor "redefining prosperity". They have no intention of "challenging the overriding priority traditionally given to economic growth"., I quote from Gordon Brown’s speech in Davos, which, as you acknowledge in your Green New Deals blog "... mapped out the territory ..: ".. QUOTE: we must use the imperative of building a low-carbon economy as a route to creating growth and jobs, the path that will see us through the current downturn .. we have begun the long walk down that road. In the European Union’s economic recovery plan, in President Obama’s green jobs package, in the stimulus packages of China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, France, Germany, Spain and Denmark, So I believe that, through these measures, we can engineer a technological transformation that will be one of this century’s key drivers of economic growth". UNQUOTE
Note the inseparable link between the words "economy", "growth" and "jobs" - no sign of any redefinition of prosperity there!! The feigned concern expressed by politicians about carbon emissions is for reasons other than climate change.

Scientist Phillip Bratby said "I wish someone would tell me why there is an imperative to build a low-carbon economy. There is plenty of fossil fuel around (and nuclear) and there is no scientific evidence that carbon dioxide causes significant change to the climate. In fact carbon dioxide is good for plants and hence it is good for animals and the general environment. The myth of carbon dioxide and global warming is a gigantic political scam based on faulty computer models". (It is worth re-reading Dr. Bratby's knowledgeable comments of 9th January on your "The New Politics of Climate Change" blog and comparing them with the ill-considered responses from 4fooey).

As I have said repeatedly on your (and Mark Lynas's) blogs, Gordon Brown is merely using the significant human-made global warming scam to raise taxes, appease environmentalists, create jobs outside of the already enormous Public Sector and (lastly) reduce our dependence upon unreliable external energy sources (as Glenn Vowles commented ".. and then there is building up our energy security and creating many thousands of jobs in innovative indistries just when they are needed..."). Mr. Brown and his government no more believe the myth of significant human-made global warming than do Dr. Bratby, thousands of other sceptical scientists or laypersons like myself (but, of course, you environmentalists will claim that we are all in the pay of those terrible energy companies)

There are lots more related comments on Jonathan's "Green New Deals" blog that readers may find interesting.

Regards, Pete Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic

PS: I see you were at it again with your propaganda about human-made global warming on the BBC's "The Weather Show" on 10th April. I'll submit some observations on that shortly.

17. 06. 2009
Pete Ridley

SENT AS FOLLOW-UP POST on 21-05-2009

Martin, OK, Jonathan found (from somewhere) a claim that "Each Chinese citizen today emits an average of 3.5 tonnes of CO2 every year". If we assume that the same emissions apply to the 7 billion global population, I make that about 30 billion tonnes globally emitted by humans.

On average the volume of air an individual breaths in and out (Lung Tidal Volume) is 0.5 l/min and a rate of around 10/min, with a Co2 concentration of 5% (at a temperature of about 27 oC, but for simplicity let's assume STP conditions), i.e. an annual volume of CO2/person/year of about 0.5 x 10 x 60 x 24 x 365 x 0.05 = 130m3/annum or a total annual population emission of 1.8 billion tonnes So, using Jonathan's figures, about 28 Billion tonnes must be due to human emissions from our use of energy (or am I missing something here?).

http://www.planetwatch.org/carbon.htm tells us in one section that that "global energy emissions are in the area of 8 billion tons of CO2 per year" then in another tells us of the "30 billion tons that human activity pumps into the atmosphere every year", so who do we believe? Naturally, I, being a sceptic, prefer to use the lower Planetwatch figures (until someone points me to a more authoratiive source) but let's stick with the 30 billion derived from Jonathan's figures. Planetwatch say that:
- the terrestrial biosphere emits about 100 billion tons (which I presume includes that exhaled by humans, but excludes the energy emissions) and absorbs about 103 billion tons of CO2 each year, absorbing 3 billion tons, net.
- the oceans also emit and absorb billions of tons of CO2 per year, with a net absorption of about 3 billion tons.
- thus the net annual increase in the atmosphere amounts to about 2 billions tons.

However, using UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data on agricultural land use in 161 countries, Austrian researchers Helmut Haberl and his colleagues from Klagenfurt University, Vienna.(see http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/Humans-are-Gobbling-Up-a-Quarter-of-Natures-Resources--Reveals-Study-23870-1/) found that humans were using up to 15.6 trillion kilograms of carbon annually (preumably referring to that which used when consuming agricultural produce). Assuming that most of this carbon ultimately comes from CO2 in the atmosphere to feed the produce (correct me if I'm wrong on this) and using the Carbon to CO2 conversion factor of 3.7, the 15.6 billion tonnes of carbon we consume equates to 58 billion tonnes of CO2. Even if we assume that about 25 billion tonnes of this due to our use of fossil fuel (according to http://www.helpsavetheclimate.com/energy.html) and not to ourconsumption of agricultural produce, humans must take 33 billion tons from the atmosphere to obtain the rest of that 58 billion, i.e. we are a net sink of atmospheric CO2.

So, whose guesses at emissions and absorptions of CO2 should we take as being valid? Your guess is as good as mine. Can anyone out there present the "truth"? I doubt it!

Isaac Singer could have been talking about Human-made Climate Change when he said "Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of non-knowledge".Pete
Ridley, Human-made Global Warming Agnostic.

PS: For me the best posting on your referenced blog was the penultimate paragraph of CJ's 2nd Feb. contribution.

19. 10. 2009
Caroline Smith

What's sad about the 'growth is good' bloggers is that they don't seem to worry about the rest of Earth's species and ecosystems. They seem to have a purely utilitarian view that the earth's resources are purely in place for human use. They never talk about the demise of biodiversity and increase in extinction rates that are taking place because of the increase in human population and resource use - which itself is grossly inequitable. Yes, some people need much more. We in the west need much less. I mourn for the loss and depletion of the beauty of earth's great ecosystems and the myriad of species that provide us humans with a sense of the spiritual, irrespective of whether human-induced climate change is taking place or not. Biodiversity gives us our sense of beauty, awe, wonder and belonging. Imagine if we lived on the moon -would we still have our aesthetic sense? Our sheer numbers and high resource use are leading to a diminished and sadder planet.

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