If one believes that our planet cannot support a world in which everyone consumes at the level of US consumption today we have a real problem on our hands. This article describes that problem in stark terms. It argues that corporations have no incentives to limit production or consumption. They have powerful incentives to promote consumption. Governments also have incentives to promote growth and to provide jobs. China, for example, is growing its economy at a much faster rate than developed countries. It is on a track to become the largest economy in the world, but it will need to become several times larger than the US economy to bring its per capita GDP up to the levels that exist in developed countries today. Scientists who are concerned about the impact of unconstrained economic growth on our planet face enormous obstacles. Capitalism is a problem because it is based upon a principle of constant growth, and governments have a similar need to encourage and support growth. We are also part of the problem because we overconsume even when it does not make us happier.
After I read this article I began to hope that the scientists are wrong about about the perils of global warming. I don't think that they are wrong, but I am not optimistic about our ability to do what may be necessary to deal with the problem. The kinds of changes that are advocated in this article are so disruptive that it will take a tragedy to unleash the forces of change that may be required. On the other hand, I posted the article because we need to be thinking more deeply about the problems that we face, despite our inability to get agreement even on market based solutions such as cap and trade or carbon taxes.
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