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The Future of Green Growth? • Watts Up With That?

Tilak Doshi’s commentary in Forbes takes on the growing influence of the Degrowth Movement.

The allure of “green growth” appears irresistible to politicians from developed Western countries. And it’s not hard to see why. As reflected in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) presented by President Biden and the European Union’s $270 billion “Green Deal Industrial Plan”, among others, there’s a dual promise of environmental rejuvenation coupled with economic vigor. A blend that seems to be the panacea for our times.

“President Biden’s misnamed $369-billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)… promises to “lift up American workers and create good-paying, union jobs across the country” while reducing not only carbon emissions but also energy costs by “incentivizing domestic production in clean energy technologies like solar, wind, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen.”

However, the enchanting symphony of green growth might be a little off-key, leading us down a path that’s not as golden as promised.

Dissent from Within

Surprisingly, the voices of skepticism aren’t emerging from outside the esteemed “Church of Climate,” but rather from its very heart. A revealing survey in Nature Sustainability displayed an unexpected twist:

“A growing body of research within the scientific community is challenging the idea that green growth is fundamentally possible or even desirable”. The survey’s authors conclude that “despite the strong promotion of green growth by policymakers and international institutions, there is mounting criticism concerning the compatibility of continued economic growth with sustainability goals.”

The Mirage of Green Growth

The seductive concept of green growth finds its roots in the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. A vision of a world where economic expansion and environmental guardianship coexist, demanding no compromises.

“Environmental sustainability is mom’s venerable apple pie, something no reasonable person could object to… green growth ensures both economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

However, with time, the legitimacy of this enticing vision is increasingly being questioned. It’s telling when industry stalwarts, such as the Saudi oil minister, equate reports from institutions like the International Energy Agency to whimsical journeys to “La La Land.”

The Winds of ‘Degrowth’ and ‘Agrowth’

What’s even more striking is the form of the alternative solutions proposed. A noteworthy 28% of the climate researchers from the survey advocate for “degrowth”. But what does that mean for the layman?

“A deliberate and equitable reduction in material consumption and economic activity in high-income countries to achieve more sustainable and socially just societies.”

While the majority seem to be leaning towards “agrowth”, a vision that puts GDP, jobs, and wages in a standstill, elevating environmental conservation as the paramount concern.

Considering this data, it’s hard to overlook the contention that a staggering 75% of climate researchers might be pushing back against the green growth narrative. Is this call for a pared-back existence reminiscent of philosophical ideals, or is there a more sinister motive lurking beneath?

“This sect in the Church of Climate seeks totalitarian control over the means of production and aspires to swiftly end cheap energy by sidelining economic growth as a valid governmental objective.”

BRICS: The Beacon of Hope

Yet, it’s not all gloom and doom. The survey offers a glimmer of hope, with a noticeable divide in sentiments between developed and developing nations. A significant majority of climate researchers from non-OECD nations, especially the BRICS, seem to lean favorably towards green growth.

This dichotomy perhaps underscores a profound realization:

Human progress is intertwined with fossil fuels, and green growth offers a socially acceptable means to ensure uninterrupted access to affordable energy.

At the end of the day, the ambition of billions beyond the Western hemisphere may not align with ideals like St. Francis’ vow of austerity. Perhaps they are more inclined to seek prosperity through deities like Lord Ganesh. And who could fault them? The quest for a sustainable future shouldn’t necessitate the forfeiture of human advancement.

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