Citizen Action Monitor

“Simple arithmetic reveals stark choices,” forewarns ecological economist Tim Jackson

If we are committed to combat the climate crisis, our current direction is entirely wrong.

No 2072 Posted by fw, October 10, 2017

To access all other synopses from Prosperity without Growth, click on the Tab titled “Prosperity without Growth” — Links to All Posts in the top left margin. 

“Stark choices” is the title of Section 5, Chapter 5 of Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity without Growth. In this section, he lists the challenging choices ahead if we are serious about combatting the climate crisis:

“… the critical question is not whether the complete decarbonization of our energy systems or the dematerialization of our consumption patterns is technically feasible, but whether it is possible in our kind of society.”

By “our kind of society” could Jackson be referring to our consumer-driven capitalist society? Stay tuned.

Below is my synopsis of a very short Section 5, the final section of Chapter 5.

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Stark choices, synopsis, from Chapter 5, “The Myth of Decoupling” of Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth, Routledge, 2nd edition, 2016-17

Tim Jackson’s “simple arithmetic” outlined in Section 4, revealed the “stark choices” we face moving forward.

  • Are we really committed to eradicating poverty?
  • Are we serious about reducing carbon emissions?
  • Do we genuinely care about resource scarcity, deforestation, biodiversity loss?
  • Or are we so blinded by economic growth that we daren’t do the sums for fear of revealing the truth?

For all its flaws, Jackson still considers the Paris Agreement to be “an extraordinary moment of unprecedented commitment to combat climate change.

But,” he emphasizes, “… our current direction of travel is entirely wrong.

Consider the formidable challenges we face:  

Emissions and resource use are rising not falling;

The pace of decoupling is painfully slow by comparison with what is needed. And it’s become slower not faster over recent decades;

If we don’t soon turn the corner on carbon emissions, we may turn to what Kevin Anderson labels as risky “Dr. Strangelove” geoengineering breakthrough solutions;

Otherwise progress towards carbon reduction will have to rely on options already on the table: enhanced energy efficiency, renewable energy and perhaps carbon capture and storage;

A massive investment in low carbon technologies is vital: in fact, this ‘ecological investment’ will drive the necessary economic transformation of the twenty-first century. Jackson puts it this way:Protecting, maintaining and enhancing the ecological assets on which our economy and our own wellbeing both depend turns out to be vital to the economics of a finite world”;

The potential for change is massive. However, in Jackson’s words:

But none of this will happen automatically;

None of it flows easily from the logic of conventional economics;  

There is no simple formula that leads from the efficiency of the market to the meeting of ecological targets.

Simplistic assumptions that capitalism’s propensity for efficiency will allow us to stabilize the climate or protect against resource scarcity are nothing short of delusional.

The truth is that there is as yet no credible, socially just, ecologically sustainable scenario of continually growing incomes for upwards of nine billion people;

And the critical question,” warns Jackson, “is not whether the complete decarbonization of our energy systems or the dematerialization of our consumption patterns is technically feasible, but whether it is possible in our kind of society.”

In concluding Section 5, Jackson provides a bridge to Chapter 6,The ‘Iron Cage’ of Consumerism.”

“The analysis in this chapter suggests that it is entirely fanciful to suppose that ‘deep’ emission and resource cuts can be achieved without confronting the structure of market economies.”

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