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1 Economics and Limits to Growth: What’s Sustainable? Dennis Meadows at The Population Institute Washington, DC October 6, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Economics and Limits to Growth: What’s Sustainable? Dennis Meadows at The Population Institute Washington, DC October 6, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Economics and Limits to Growth: What’s Sustainable? Dennis Meadows at The Population Institute Washington, DC October 6, 2009

2 2 The Reference Scenario Resources Population Pollution Industrial Output Food Original Report Today

3 3 Main Insights from the Scenario In 1972 we expected another years of growth. All our scenarios showed growth ending in the period The preponderant mode was overshoot and decline, not gradual slowing within a limit. Changes in technology may delay the end of growth by a few years, but they do not avoid it, and they do not avoid the decline. Social changes are essential for the attractive futures. What are today considered to be problems are actually symptoms. The real problem is physical growth in material and energy flows pressing against the limits of a finite planet.

4 4 Main Points of My Speech Growth has continued until we are now past sustainable levels. The global society will change more over the next 20 years than in the past 100. Design policies for what is coming, not what has been. The main forces for change will be climate change and resource scarcity - especially fossil fuels and water. The end of growth does not result from total depletion, but from rising capital costs. The most important scarcity is the absence of a longer- term perspective.

5 5 World Population

6 6 Industrial Production

7 7 Index of World Metals Use

8 8 “Sind die Menschen noch zu retten?” Die Zeit, If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue,.. all seafood faces collapse by By the middle of the century … no fewer than 7 billion people in 60 countries may be faced with water scarcity. Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course... Fundamental changes are urgent…. - more than 1,600 scientists, including 102 Nobel laureates, from 70 countries (Ignoring climate change) “could create risks of major Disruption to economic and social activity… on a scale Similar to those associated with the great wars.” Stern Review October 2006

9 9 One Indicator of Overshoot

10 10 Other Indicators of Overshoot

11 11 The Sequence of Objections 1970s: There are no limits. 1980s: There are limits, but they are distant intime. 1990s: The limits are near, but they areirrelevant, since they will be dealt with by themarket. 2000s: The market is not adequate, but newtechnologies will let us evade the limits withoutrequiring that we stop growth.

12 12 Capital Cost of Discovery 0 1 Fraction of Resource Remaining CostCost

13 13 Capital Cost of Abatement 0 1 Fraction of Sink Remaining CostCost

14 14 Energy Return on Investment

15 15

16 16 The Time of Greatest Stress Most people assume that the major global difficulties would occur after the end to growth. This is not correct. The globe’s population would experience the most stress prior to the peak, as pressures mount high enough to neutralize the enormous political, demographic, and economic forces that now sustain growth. We are in the early phases of that period now.

17 17 CO 2 Concentration

18 18 Four Factors Determine the Amount of CO 2 Emissions © Dennis Meadows; 2007

19 19 A Problem NowFuture Better > Next Evaluation Actual Desired Time Horizon

20 20 Easy Problems NowFuture Better > Next Evaluation Action #1 Actual Desired Action #2

21 21 Difficult Problems NowFuture Better > Next Evaluation Action #1 Action #2 Actual Desired

22 22 Relying on Present Net Value to Choose Assumes: All consequences of an action are known All consequences can be expressed in monetary units; they are commensurate We are the ones entitled to pick the interest rate Maximizing financial benefits is the goal of society Current mistakes can be corrected by paying some cost in the future Every single one of these assumptions is false for the issue of climate change!!


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