Debate: Green Economic Growth Vs. Slow Growth

Debate: Green Economic Growth Vs. Slow Growth (2/2)

June 3, 2016

In the second half of a debate on green economics and growth, economists Robert Pollin and Peter Victor re-emphasized their agreement on the limitations of GDP as a measure of economic well-being, including inequality, distribution, and health outcomes. However, they remained at odds over whether economic growth can accompany a transition away from fossil fuels. Victor emphasized the rate of investment as a major issue. “We’re told we must, must expand that energy sector, because jobs and growth in GDP comes first, and we’ll deal with the climate change issues separately or later on,” said Victor. “This is not a healthy or productive way to go forward.” “It’s really a question of timing. If you transition to green energy slowly, it’s less of a problem than if you try to do it fast. You try to do it fast, then you have massive short-term investment which can only be supported by the existing sources of energy, which are fossil fuel,” said Victor. Pollin concluded the discussion by arguing that climate stabilization and growth can be simultaneous “because investing in the green economy requires more inputs by people, and less inputs by energy, per se, and by machines.” “My fundamental point is that I don’t care, per se, about GDP growth,” said Pollin. “I do care about jobs, I do care about distribution. “If we make a point of trying to slow GDP growth, it is going to mean less job opportunities, a rate of reduction in generating new jobs. It’s going to create huge political…

Debate: Green Economic Growth Vs. Slow Growth (1/2)

June 2, 2016

In order for societies to transition away from fossil fuels, a new research field of green economics has emerged to confront the necessity and inevitability of transforming national economies in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are, however, two camps in the world of green economics. Advocates of green growth, such as Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst, argue that economic growth can accompany reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through the use of cleaner technology and green jobs. Advocates of degrowth, such as Peter Victor of York University in Toronto, say economic growth will exacerbate efforts to achieve ecological sustainability. “Degrowth is all about challenging the growth paradigm,” says Victor, “which means challenging the priority that’s given to the pursuit of economic growth even in the richest of countries, when there are so many indications that the material and energy requirements that are necessary to support economic growth are overloading the capacity of the biosphere when we dispose of those materials and energy as waste.” But Pollin argues that “we simply can’t get close to the goal” of reducing emissions “by reducing GDP alone. GDP reduction, degrowth, is not a solution to climate stabilization. What we have to do instead is invest massively in clean technologies, renewable energy, and in high energy efficiency. That in my view is the only way, even if you’re a proponent of degrowth for other reasons.” While Victor warns that the production of clean energy technology will require large energy inputs…