Friday, July 08, 2011

Not Getting It

Much sackcloth and ashes over at Chris Mooney's about some goings on at the Heartland Conference

Once the audience questions start coming for the panel, I was rather surprised to hear that most were basically about…uh, communism. And in response, the panelists—and especially Christopher Horner—were quite affirmative that the real reason that we, the “left,” want to restrict greenhouse gas emissions is that we want to hobble economies, redistribute wealth, and restrict individual freedoms.

“You can believe this is about the climate, and many people do,” said Horner. “But it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner went on to argue that “it’s probably about what they’ve claimed they really want.” For many “luminaries” of the environment movement, Horner continued, “economic growth is not the cure, it’s the disease.”
The proposition before the house was given by 1985, the year after 1984
That the mainstream view does not attack growth as the root cause of the environmental/sustainability crisis is a big problem, not something for you to point out as a virtue. That’s why the mainstream view is nothing more than mere greenwashing that’s absolutely inadequate and incapable of making any actual difference. And I am sorry to say it but if you don’t think that growth is a problem then you are completely ecologically illiterate and have no serious place in this conversation at all, the same goes for everybody that doesn’t understand that infinite growth in a finite system is a biophysical impossibility.
And they were off about limits to growth if any. But something is getting lost in the mix, expressed in this graph from Tuiran, Partida, Mojarro and Zuniga, Fertility in Mexico, Trends and Forecast.




and if that is enough for you play around with the rollovers from index mundi showing world wide total fertility rates.

The real question is what do you mean by growth. Clearly at a certain level of well being (which, of course is relative) fertility rates go down below replacement. With the exception of China, this decrease in total fertility rate has been driven by increasing prosperity and even in the case of China prosperity plays a role. Further, while there is a loose correlation between well being and energy use, there is a saturation point at which efficiency can take over from brute SUVism given any reasonable policy.

7 comments:

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Eli,

What's happened to the older threads on the front page? Yesterday it only showed the top two posts. Today it only showed the last two posts. Day before only the "Revenge" post (good one there!). This is the case in FF 5.0, IE 9 and Safari. Something is wrong with CSS 3 browsers.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Oops, got that wrong. Today it only showed this one.

EliRabett said...

No idea. The second page has 3 posts and the third is normal. Have asked at Blogger.

Anonymous said...

So they really are insane.

Pete Dunkelberg

carrot eater said...

The global population is expected to more-or-less stabilise somewhere around 9 billion, isn't it? Meaning, the global fertility rate is headed towards the replacement level. As people become more affluent and more educated, as access to contraception becomes widespread, and as infant mortality is reduced, that's simply how things progress.

As for economic growth: apparently the Heartland types are as useless at economics as they are at science. For pete's sake, it's quite clear that economic growth continues as carbon usage decreases. OK, if you ignore the negative impacts of climate change on economic growth, then it's slightly more expensive to reduce the carbon usage than not doing so. But either way, economic growth continues. When you put the costs of negative impacts back into the maths, you can quite easily end up with higher long term growth by cutting back on carbon. Though at this point one gets bogged down in arguments over what discount rate to use.

"Further, while there is a loose correlation between well being and energy use"

To an extent, yes. The western world uses more energy per capita than say, India or Africa, and that is not unexpected given large differences in living standards. But zoom in a bit, and you can see that compared to the 1970s, many western countries have been able to produce increasingly more GDP per unit energy or per unit carbon. While part of this is due to offshoring certain energy-intensive things to China (China saw an uptick in energy use/GDP somewhere in the last decade, I think), efficiency gains have much to do with it.

Scrooge said...

WOW talk about the John Birch Society blues. I wonder if they look under their beds at night for commies. If they need help because of their delusions by all means we should help them, but first get them away from society before they hurt any more people.

Neven said...

The real question is what do you mean by growth.

What I mean by growth is the economic concept of infinite growth our whole society and culture have been subjugated to.