Via MT, I see that ClimatePolicy has reproduced a surprisingly direct and welcome keynote address given by Herman Daly at the 2007 AMS Federal Climate Policy meeting. It’s worth reading in full, so go to ClimatePolicy or Grist (a little clearer layout, IMO) and do so. Briefly, I was happy to see one of my personal gripes with economic ideology dragged fully into the harsh light of reality:
The next question we should ask is, What is it that is causing us to systematically emit ever more CO2 into the atmosphere? It is the same thing that causes us to emit more and more of all kind of wastes into the biosphere, namely our irrational commitment to exponential growth forever on a finite planet subject to the laws of thermodynamics. If we overcome the growth idolatry we could then go on to ask an intelligent question like, “How can we design and manage a steady-state economy, one that respects the limits of the biosphere?” Instead we ask a wrong-headed, growth-bound question, specifically; “By how much will we have to increase energy efficiency, or carbon efficiency, in order to maintain customary growth rates in GDP?”
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, this is what I believe is not only an illustration of the failure of one of the most mainstream kinds of economic philosophy, it neatly explains the perversely self-destructive resistance to addressing climate change in a meaningful way from certain people and groups. When evidence threatens ideology, a large number of ideologues are going to attack the evidence rather than adapt their views to reality.
It’s refreshing to see this issue being addressed in a relevant setting, free from accusations of crypto-communism and Club of Rome, eugenics conspiracy-mongering. Limitless-growth economics is tantamount to a suicide pact in our current predicament. It is literally delusional to view economy and ecology as separate, distinct concepts, let alone as in competition.
This is the conversation we need to have as a planet. That means an entire economic philosophy and many associated socio-political ideologies are going to have to either adapt or be pushed out of the way. I have my doubts that this will happen in time to avoid some of the terrible consequences of inaction. From “drill, baby, drill” to “Breakthrough!” there’s little reason to expect it’s a conversation we’ll be having any time soon.