2018/09/21: it is impossible to achieve absolute decoupling of resource use from GDP on a global scale, even with rapid efficiency gains and aggressive taxes on resource extraction. This is the conclusion reached by literally every existing study that has been conducted on the matter (you can follow links to the original research here). The reason is simple: the rate of decoupling is outstripped by the normal rate of GDP growth, even in high-efficiency scenarios. To make matters worse, there are physical limits to resource efficiency, and as we approach them the rate of improvement slows down, giving yet more force to the scale effect of GDP growth.
Unlike resource use, GDP can (thankfully) be dramatically decoupled from carbon emissions. But this solves only one dimension of our ecological poly-crisis. Even if we magically switched to a completely clean and renewable energy system tomorrow, we would be no closer to reversing our overshoot of all the other critical planetary boundaries: biodiversity collapse, chemical loading, deforestation, etc.
What are we going to do with all that clean energy? The same things we’re doing with fossil fuels: raze forests, intensify agricultural extraction, produce mountains of stuff, send waste to landfill – and do all of this at an ever-increasing rate, because our economic system is programmed to require endless expansion.
I have never said that poor countries shouldn’t grow – nor has anyone in this field of study (which Noah would know had he read any of the relevant literature). I have simply said that we can’t continue with aggregate global growth. What we need, then, is a fairer distribution of global income, with much more of it going to poor countries (and poor people within rich countries).
Is it politically impossible? Well, it would certainly require a struggle. But it’s far less impossible than Noah’s preferred alternative, namely, to transcend the laws of physics.
the real cause of lower fertility isn’t higher GDP but rather better girls’ education. GDP is a confounding factor.
While poor countries may need some GDP growth, that should never – for any nation, rich or poor – be the objective as such. The objective should be to improve human well-being: better health, better education, better housing, happiness, etc.
there is no evidence that relying on a switch to services, in and of itself, reduces the material throughput of the global economy.
With the effects of climate change no longer theoretical, projections more dire and action lagging, some potential parents are hesitating.
Of course overpopulation is a problem, a huge problem. Look around. I live in one of the most crowded pieces of real-estate in the world.
What we need is a new food system that keeps people fed and ecosystems healthy.
A Vatican conference on biodiversity has found that wasteful attitudes when it comes to consumption could be leading to the extinction of certain species, and that changing personal habits and a promoting more equal distribution of the earth's resources could make the difference.
Travis Rieder and his wife Sadiye have one child.
A scientific model has suggested that society will collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages if policies do not change.
Its popularity may be waning as folks try to offload the stuff on Craigslist. No powdery tears were cried for the bland meal replacement.
Globally, we still catch enough fish to eat - just about. But numbers of fish caught from the sea haven't kept up with human population growth and unsustainable fish farms have filled the gap. So why are
New study overturns 20 years of consensus on peak projection of 9bn and gradual decline
There is a standard view of energy and the economy that can briefly be summarized as follows: Economic growth can continue forever; we will learn to use less energy supplies; energy prices will rise; and the world will adapt. My view of how energy and the economy fit together is very different. It is based
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If we don't mend our ways, wild areas nearly as big as Brazil will turn into farmland by 2050. A new U.N. report lays out a plan for avoiding that.
China's finally starting to reckon with the health consequences of decades of pollution. An official at the top economic planning agency just acknowledged pollution's toll on people's mental and physical health. But for many, that's too little too late. Such as for China's youngest lung cancer patient (link in Chinese), an 8 year old girl. And for the 40 million people between 20 and 40-about 12.5% of that population-who have fertility problems.
Protein is a shrinking part of the diets of humans and animals. The deficiency is spreading rapidly across the world, but is particularly pronounced in Africa, even though many sources of protein can be
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Can insects feed a growing global population? - CC, click on image for license and information.
Fly larvae-chomping Austrian designer Katharina Unger unveils a conceptual at-home tabletop bug-breeding machine dubbed Farm 432.