Limits to Growth got it right…

New Scientist recently ran a suite of features on the need to re-think our assumptions about economic growth which was reminiscent of the 1970s (and that’s fine by me). They follow up this week by highlighting an interesting paper from Graham Turner of CSIRO in Autralia, now published in the Journal Global Environmental Change but more easily available here.

The paper has some useful commentary on misrepresentations of what Meadows et al actually said back in 1972 (they didn’t claim that the sky would fall by the end of the century, as is often alleged). But the nub of it is a fairly detailed attempt to compare their three scenarios with the data which has come through since. Even though they stressed that their “world model” was not intended to be predictive, Turner is basically testing whether any of the predictions were correct.

His conclusion, according to the New Scientist, is that “changes in industrial production, food production and pollution are all in line with the Club of Rome’s predictions, which foresee decreasing resource availability and an escalating cost of extraction that eventually triggers a slowdown of industry – leading to economic collapse some time after 2020”.

The paper does indeed say something a bit like that. The key data, though, may be those on pollution, which is the main thing which brings things grinding to a halt in Meadows’ business as usual scenario. And what does Turner take as a surrogate for total pollution – because most of it is too hard to measure and certainly to construct a time series for? Why, carbon dioxide.

In summary, then, the paper says that the present global economy is threatened with a major downturn in the next decades because of rising atmospheric levels of a greenhouse gas. Er, didn’t we know that already?

Explore posts in the same categories: climate, futures past, optimism

One Comment on “Limits to Growth got it right…”

  1. Tanto Says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles. You obviously know what you are talking about! Can`t wait to read more

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