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John D

It's amazing how many people think we can have limitless growth as soon as we get to 'clean energy'. I am convinced that if we found a way to produce free clean energy tomorrow we would still find a way to extinct ourselves. We would cut down every forest we could find and build McMansions and shopping malls. The world's population would grow until we were sitting on top of each other. And of course we could go to war with limitless firepower.

In the end, it all comes down to the false paradigm of infinite growth. Even smart scientists don't want to go against this religion.

Andrew Kirk

Reading this, I hear the "Lamentations of Jeremiah," by Thomas Tallis. Bleak and abject. It may not qualify for a "Remedy du Jour." But give it a listen anyhoo, and possibly hear your message in another medium.

Ken Barrows

Infinite growth is possible! Just make sure Chase and Goldman Sachs keep raking in massive profits. What's that? Never mind.


The very frustrating part is that it's considered crazy to suggest we shouldn't continue economic and population growth, when in reality it's the opposite approach that is the crazy part.

Honestly, I look at the above charts and think they're still being significantly over-conservative in their 'business as usual' projections. The world's economy is currently doubling about every 15 years. If it dropped to 3% growth per year, it would still double every 23 years. World energy consumption doesn't grow as fast, but it's still exponentional - it's roughly doubled from 1980 to now (but it should jump much higher with the massive growth in China, India, and other developing countries). World CO2 emissions are doubling every 20-30 years, but it's set for a massive jump with the growth in China and India.

The A2 growth scenario above projects roughly a doubling time in growth/emissions (A2) of 50-60 years. It doesn't track.

I get the strong, strong feeling that population, resource consumption, and emissions projections are often to always biased to not appear as bad as they really are. Somehow, a slowing of growth is always factored in - they never pretty much track the historical doubling times (or choose to look at the growth as linear instead of exponential).

John D. Wheeler

1d. The scientists know that if they suggest a no-growth solution they will not be able to receive any more funding.

I think Jim's comments point to the likelihood that they are not clueless. If they were truly clueless they probably would have made projections using historical figures. A doubling time of 72 years is a 1% growth rate, so a doubling time of 50-60 years is about as close to no growth as would be acceptable to the Powers That Be.

Dave Cohen

Well, Mr. Wheeler,

Your option #1(d) is certainly a possibility, but I'm sticking with #2.

It is natural of course that their views of economic growth would be conventional and thus self-serving (albeit unconsciously). Which leads us back to #2.

-- Dave


What hurts the most is not that we are fucked, but that we are fucked without any concomitant pleasure, as should be the case with this marvellous old Germanic verb.

It's a bit like slipping between the sheets in the dark, snuggling up to a warm body and then realising grannie got into the wrong bed tonight.

Mike Roberts

Yes, I think that the notion of economic growth is now so ingrained that almost no-one can envisage a world without it. Political candidates who provide the most convincing argument to getting economic growth going will be the ones to get ahead of others. The possibility of no growth is almost never heard or read in conversations or media.

But, even with the ingrained notion of growth, it's still hard for me not to be continually surprised (an oxymoron?) that scientists, who I tend to believe can think critically, just take it for granted that constant economic growth is both possible and desirable.

Bill Roope

To put it simply; It is necessary to shut down industrial civilization immediately to avoid climate destabilization which
will destroy industrial civilization along with its enabler humanity. But, shutting down industrial civilization suddenly would destroy most of humanity. It’s pretty predicament indeed.


Dave, why does their avoiding the truth have to be "unconscious". These are supposedly intelligent people who certainly know who signs their paycheck. How many would be willing to lose their income and professional standing by putting out a real report and telling the Western world that they have to abandon 'for profit' capitalism and drastically cut their use of the world's natural resources? Maybe one in a thousand? And if their reports are 'peer reviewed' before publishing, how many tried and were shot down with the threat of being sidelined in their profession? And even if one report got through, how can it outweigh the thousands that do not report the real truth and are funded by powerful corporations? Just asking...

Alexander Ač

Hi all,

I send an e-mail to all authors, with a link to Dave's article, if they respond, I will let you know,



The mood at the AGU fall meeting was pretty bleak this year. I've heard Ken Caldeira speak, and I'd say the answer is "The authors don't think anyone would take them seriously if they made such a suggestion." Any climate/environmental scientist who dabbles in policy making knows that you just can't say it. Nobody wants to hear us say that.

Dave - I really enjoy your blog and drop by regularly, thank for it.

Julian Bond

I've been waiting for the axe to fall ever since reading "The Limits To Growth" back in the mid 70s. I still don't feel like I know if it's going to fall on my kids or their grand-kids. The message from that book and subsequent updates is simple. If the resource limits don't get you, the pollution will.

But what if the overshoot and instability is 30 years out? Do I care, since I probably won't see it? And my kids have a reasonable chance of making enough wealth in the mean time for personal soft landings. Or is that too cynical?

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