Tag Archives: GDAE

Ecological macroeconomics: resolving the three dilemmas of transformation

Jonathan Harris, “Ecological macroeconomics: consumption, investment, and climate change”, real-world economics review, issue no. 50, 1 September 2009, pp. 34-48,

Harris (Tufts University) begins his discussion by using the charmingly mild phrase “cognitive disconnect” to decribe the yawning great chasm between “scientists’ warnings of potential catastrophe if carbon emissions continue unchecked on the one hand and the political and economic realities of steadily increasing emissions on the other” (p.34)

It is, as he says, “the outstanding economic problem of the twenty-first century. Can economic growth continue while carbon emissions are drastically reduced?” (p.34) And asking that question makes us look more closely at what, in fact, economic growth is and how we might make a successful economic and social transition to sustainability.

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Stark choices and positive futures: what climate change means for rich-nations’ way of life.

Neva Goodwin, for the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, has released a working paper titled:“An Overview of Climate Change: What does it mean for our way of life? What is the best future we can hope for?”.

The intention is that this paper will later develop into a book, and based on what we have so far, the book should be one excellent “answer” to the challenges we identified in “Enough Already – Part One”. At 28 pages of text, less footnotes, I recommend the paper as a compact, useful, positive read.

Some points I picked out:
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Economic Vitality in a Transition to Sustainability

Economic Vitality in a Transition to Sustainability, by Neva Goodwin

This paper is part of series with what seems to me a most unpromising title: Growing the Economy Through Global Warming Solutions. Ignore that, and the first couple of obligatory blah blah pages – the good stuff is in the body of the paper itself. It concisely examines solutions to our position of environmental overshoot, as well as challenges and issues of transition (including global social justice, and the need to reconstruct our economic system beyond capitalism as we know it) and reasons for optimism about the kind of society (and economy) we could have if we start to implement the solutions now.

“The most general answers [on how to get to a sustainable society] are obvious: take all the climate change mitigation actions that are immediately available, while investing heavily in research and implementation of additional mitigation options, as well as a multitude of strategies for adaptation. In the short term – the next fifteen years or so – this approach can work well within existing economic structures. For the longer term, however, it will be necessary to undertake more basic changes in how we think about and carry on economic activity. All economic systems should be considered fair game for review and restructuring, including the patterns of production, financing, ownership, consumption, maintenance, and responsibility that are now taken for granted in industry, housing, appliance life cycles, waste disposal, agriculture, resource extraction, and all other major aspects of economic life. Changes will be needed; ultimately they are likely to be as much social and institutional as they are economic and technological.” (p.6, emphasis mine)

Read more about GDAE’s Theory and Education work on Climate Economics

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The economics of climate change – the case of Florida

The Global Development & Environment Institute at Tufts University has released a report on the consequences of unchecked greenhouse gas emissons for Florida. You can find it here.

They estimate that the costs of unchecked climate change – on just three sectors: tourism, electric utilities, and real estate – together with effects of hurricanes would shrink Florida’s Gross State Product by 5% by the end of this century. Obviously, as the authors point out, if costs for other sectors (e.g. agriculture, fisheries, insurances, transportation, and water systems) were included, the costs would be much higher. And, of course, there would be huge non-monetary costs of environmental destruction and human lives lost. It is grim reading.

Consider this, too: Florida won’t be the only place facing major economic, social, and no doubt political disruption. This will be happening all over the world, in differing degrees and forms. It seems a reasonable bet that there will be large multiplier (or ‘knock-on’) economic costs.

Then there are the ‘tipping point’ risks: scientists are now telling us that Earth’s climate could change quite rapidly (and there is evidence of it having done so in the past). We don’t know what that tipping point is, exactly, and in pumping out greenhouse gases, we are conducting a gigantic, dangerous, global climate experiment.

If we add these three things: first round costs, knock-on costs, and risks, plus a reasonable consideration of the non-monetary costs, it is obvious that we ought to be putting large-scale resources and efforts into efforts to reduce emissions.

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