2011-10-20 20:45:49Economic growth and Climate Change


Edited for 2 part series

I am thinking of publishing a 2 part series on economic growth and climate change

This is Part 1 and Part 2

The cartoon is just an idea, it may have to be purchased before publishing.  

2011-10-20 23:48:40
Kevin C


Before relying on 'The Spirit Level' (much as it aligns with my worldview), I'd want to read the critiques and examine the debate in the peer-reviewed literature. That one is certainly a political hot-potato. Wikipedia has a useful page.

My feeling is that, while excellent work, this would change the nature of SkS by taking it away from its scientific home ground into a more political forum.

2011-10-21 19:01:05


The main emphasis of the series is on our reliance on economic growth and the effect on GHG emissions rather than income equality, so references to the Spirit Level and inequality could be removed if necessary.  In fact parts 1 and 2 could be used almost independently.

Most of the critiques are answered here which I linked

The Spirit level is a hot potato because of what the the evidence points to. I think the Nature quote in Wiki has been cherry picked. It should say

 "In a review for Nature, Michael Sargent said The Spirit Level uses "statistics from reputable independent sources" and is "a brave and imaginative effort to understand the intractable social problems that face rich democratic countries".He notes studies which call into question the link between inequality and health and welfare which go unaddressed in The Spirit Level, although Wilkinson and Pickett have since answered many of these concerns

The statistical criticisms in Wiki don't seem to measure up either since there is a treatment here.


If you notice in part 4 I have attempted to show a more balanced view of inequality showing that reducing this would increase CO2 emissions from a basic consumption viewpoint.

2011-10-23 10:39:40
Andy S


I notice you cite Tim Jackson later on. I love his quote :

“… people are being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about”

His TED talk is excellent.

Very small point, it's the Jevons paradox, not Jeavons


2011-10-23 18:47:07
Glenn Tamblyn



General observation about following the economic growth vs Climate Change (and every other environmental problem you might care to mention) argument.

If you make this even slightly a moral and ethical question (which it is) you will immediately be only speaking to the converted. To everyone else you are a left-wing socialist (insert a few more epithets here) arsehole who wants to destroy civilisation, keep the poor in poverty and hates humanity.

The only argument that I can see as having any chance of swaying the people that matter is the essntially technical and motivational perspective.

'Our economic system needs growth to deliver prosperity. But there is a fundamental problem. Growth forever just isn't possible. Thats simple Math!. Nothing can grow forever. So we have a big problem. Our system has a design problem that we have to fix. The system that has been so good for us simply can't keep on being good for us much longer. It is running out of steam because it is based on using up things we can't replace. This is disturbing, but we have never shirked from doing the hard things before. We can build a new economic system that lets us continue to have prosperity without using things up. But it means we have to do something we have never done before. Stop taking the easy way out. Stop dumping our crap into our own backyards just because we find it easier. Surely we can be smarter than that. If a problem is hard, isn't that when we are at our best. Progress isn't about More. It is about Smarter & Better. Time to get our skates on...'

2011-10-23 20:47:17


Thanks for your comments

I have edited the original article into a less politically controversial version, however, obviously I can't ignore the elephant in the room, economic growth.

Please comment if it is more acceptable to SkS policy now.

Part 1 and Part 2

To be honest, I think right wing ideologues are incapable of 'conversion' even the recent BEST results hasn't changed the attitude of a single one. This is more directed towards the 90% of the population who are still obsessed with economic growth.  It provides objective reasons why we can't reduce carbon and grow at the same time, it is not a socialist policy but a third way.

2011-10-25 21:19:05
Kevin C


Yes, I think that is much better.

(I actually stated my original concern rather poorly. My worry would have been better stated as follows: 'The Spirit Level is such a red-rag to conservative readers that it will prevent them from assimilating any of the useful content of the article'. But you've dealt with it nicely.)

2011-10-30 12:01:14
Dana Nuccitelli

Your links need some fixin' up.

"temperature increase by 2100 is between 2.4 and 4.6 degrees Celsius if things go ahead as they are now. This level of temperature rise would threaten the stability of the global ecosphere as we know it." => I'd link to my 'dangerous warming' post here.

Population is supposed to surpass 7 billion on Monday, so you can update the 'forecast to pass 7 billion' comment.

Part 1 needs its own blog post, and also Part 2.

2011-11-15 00:28:09


Sorry I had given up on this, I will deal with those suggestions!

2011-11-20 01:09:09


OK links fixed,

I've also linked to a number of SkS posts and made the warming prediction consistent with the Hadley data mentioned in one of these. http://www.skepticalscience.com/iea-co2-emissions-update-2010.html

The 7 billion date was only an estimate so I  have made this clear through another link.

Separated into two blogs Part 1 and Part 2

I have made some grammatical and minor changes


Hope this is OK now