A Free-Market Energy Blog

“Degrowth” (Last refuge for climate alarmists?)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- April 18, 2023

“No-one is claiming that degrowth would be easy or non disruptive or linear.” (Jennifer Wilkins, below)

“Questions for the Degrowth proponent: Who decides what is necessary or not–and for whom and when? Isn’t this the very definition of authoritarianism?” (Bradley, below)

The “Degrowth” movement needs some critical attention. I asked some hard queries after reading this on social media from Jennifer Wilkins, who defined degrowth as follows:

Ever wondered how degrowth differs from conventional sustainability?

The goal of degrowth is universal wellbeing, to be delivered through global and local provisioning systems that are distributive and regenerative. This demands a reprioritisation of social values and behaviours toward sufficiency and sharing; it is driving development of innovative post-growth business models that focus on meeting needs and respect local biosphere boundaries, both scientific and cultural; it is guiding macroeconomic research on a coherent set of policy interventions that would balance green policies with protection of livelihoods; and it is agitating for reform of governance institutions and an increase in community agency through participative democracy. No-one is claiming that degrowth would be easy or non disruptive or linear.

She continued:

Conventional ‘sustainability’, too, recognises global and local inequality and that we’ve exceeded planetary boundaries. It goes about resolving these wicked problems through incrementally improving existing production systems, making positive social impacts and reducing negative environmental impacts. Individuals are encouraged to make greener purchasing decisions and individual businesses are encouraged to invest in technologies to improve their carbon and resource intensity and to buy offsets. It promises continuity of lifestyle and protection of individualism, a value we’ve become comfortable with and which capitalism relies upon. But there is no evidence that conventional sustainability approaches will make enough of a difference in the precious time we have left to make choices before our climate, biodiversity and inequality crises could tip us (and all living beings) into universal catastrophe.

I left this comment on social media:

Questions for the Degrowth proponent. Who decides what is necessary and what is not–and for whom and when. Isn’t this the very definition of authoritarianism?

and was blocked ….


Another degrowth post came from Kasper Benjamin Reimer Bjørkskov, who stated in Why Degrowth is our best option

1. No country on earth has managed to decouple emissions, from all environmental pressures, not even emissions have we managed to decuple. Links here and here]

2. A newly developed economic model for how to calculate environmental and climate effects in Denmark’s entire economy, shows us that if companies and government had to pay for the damages caused by production of goods and services, the capitalist system would collapse. This proves that the current economic system is incapable of ensuring a green transition. [Links here and here

3. There is no credible pathway to the 1.5 degree limit, because all nations rely on green growth, something that doesn’t exist. A new research paper by Giorgos Kallis and Aljoša Slameršak tell us that transforming our energy demand from a fossil fuels economy to a low carbon one will use roughly 40-66% of the carbon budget, making it impossible to reach the 1,5 degree target without having to degrow the economy, of the global north.

4. Even if green growth existed we would not be able to keep the emissions below 1,5 degrees, because social changes need to happen in order to drastically reduce emissions, these social changes would be impossible to impose in the current economic system. “Keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius — the goal set in the Paris Agreement — is implausible for social reasons, not technical ones, according to the Hamburg Climate Outlook, published Wednesday.” [Link here]

5. We don’t have the available resources to make the energy transition, in a just way therefore we have to reduce energy consumption. [Link here] The simple reasons we have to implement  degrowth is because ““We are completely ignorant to the fact that the disease is our overconsumption. We dream of technical fixes that ensure we can continue overspending. But we do not reduce the consumption that caused the problem in the first place”

Degrowth definition: Degrowth is a planned and democratic reduction of less necessary forms of production in rich countries, in a just way. Degrowth calls us to rethink the current economic structure so that income is spread more equally across society, and resources are not depleted for economic gain


An Alternative to Degrowth

In this social media exchange with Alexander Leipold, I outlined a positive, optimistic, win-win alternative to one degrowth adherent. He stated:

Unfortunately the ‘classical liberal’ lobbying for #fossilfuels on this platform – Rob Bradley is right: “modern life depends on affordable, plentiful, reliable energy.”

And it is correct that low density energy such as solar and wind power cannot replace high energy density fossil fuels while maintaining the same amount of economic activity and output. Not to speak of #economicgrowth.

We need to look at the concept of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (#ERoEI), and on the #materialflows necessary to scale up low energy density technologies (eufemistically called renewable energy) to understand the true nature of the challenge ahead.

Why understanding the myth of #sustainablegrowth and absolute #decoupling is critical to humanity.

I commented:

First, Alexander, I am not a ‘fossil fuel lobbyist” but a classical liberal making a utilitarian case for energy freedom and modern living for human betterment.

Second, glad you see that point of energy density–wind and solar gum up the landscape and have their own eco-issues. CO2 is a greening agent for Planet Earth and should have your support for PPM growth.

No, the Malthusian view of ‘limits to growth’ does not apply to private property, free market areas of the world. Human ingenuity is not a declining resource but an expanding one: Resourceship 

Private ownership of subsoil minerals is key to wealth democratization.

Two worldviews in conflict. One optimistic given human freedom to flourish; the other pessimistic with radical, authoritarian designs to “save us from ourselves.” I think I know which one has a better intellectual case and is the way of the future. But human betterment must be the standard.

One Comment for ““Degrowth” (Last refuge for climate alarmists?)”

  1. John W. Garrett  

    Jennifer Wilkins obviously has her mind made up and no amount of logic or facts are going to penetrate her thick skull.


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