Global Warming and the Limits to Growth
27 October 2008 7:00 pm
Barbara Bergmann, Professor Emerita of Economics, University of Maryland and American University
Renner-Institut, Hoffingergasse 26, 1120 Vienna, Bruno Kreisky Saal
Lecture organized by Renner Institute in cooperation with wiiw.
Agreement on cutting world carbon emissions will not be possible without plans that contemplate allowing the populations of China and India to eventually achieve living standards comparable to those in the developed west. These two countries currently have eight times the population of the United States, so even keeping total emissions of those three countries at a level equal to today's emissions would most likely require a cut in US per capita income, even if a huge cut in emissions per dollar of GDP could be achieved. Further growth of economies in South America and Africa, and population growth must also be accommodated. In any case, a slowdown or stopping or reversal of growth must be contemplated in the US and later the rest of the world. Up to now, 'growth' has been used as a synonym for 'prosperity', but it would be worthwhile to start thinking of the techniques required to tolerably manage an economy with little or no growth. The benefits to growth include (1) ability to bring lower income groups to a higher standard, (2) freedom to accommodate changes in technology, new products, and tastes without excessive regulation and (3) low levels of unemployment. Maintaining these benefits without much or any growth would require entirely new forms of management.