To Slow Down Climate Change, Slow Down Economic Growth

Contributor(s): 
April 21, 2014

In the provocative new book “Supply Shock,” ecological economist Brian Czech argues that perpetual economic growth is a doomed policy and that the world must transition to a steady state economy to curb over-exploitation of natural resources and climate change.

Climate change is driven by anthropogenic inputs of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases into the atmosphere. The release of these gases is largely the direct or indirect product of economic activities such as transportation, land-clearing, electricity generation, and many others. These activities will increase in intensity as the world’s population and its economy grow. Indeed, economic growth is a central policy initiative of most countries, but the logic of perpetual economic growth is questionable and may be unsustainable.

Czech describes the history of economic theory in Europe and the United States, how land was gradually removed from the basic economic equations first developed in the 1700s, and how this led to the fallacy of perpetual economic growth as an accepted worldwide policy goal. Czech’s central argument is that the world economy must transition (sooner rather than later) to a steady state economy that is neither growing nor shrinking. Such a transition would require massive changes to economies all over the globe, and include controversial initiatives like population control and wealth redistribution. His arguments are passionate and persuasive, and the book is an important read for anybody worried about the future of our planet and the structure of human civilization in general.    

***

Czech B (2013) Supply shock: economic growth at the crossroads and the steady state solution. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada