As the world leaders continue to meet in Paris to address climate change, civilization faces a major choice, according to an important op-ed in the New York Times, "No Growth - No World? Think About It."
So here is the question: must the world abandon its long arc of economic growth to effectively fight climate change?
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The answer has major quality of life implications for the hundreds of millions of global citizens who today lack electricity - and Americans sitting in the lighted, powered comfort of our offices and homes from Bangor to Berkeley.
Let me quote from the Times column by Eduarto Porter.
"Accept that citizens of developing nations are entitled to catch up with the living standards of Europeans by midcentury, and assume that Europe will grow, on average, by 2 percent a year between now and then.
"To stay within the 2 degree Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) average temperature increase that scientists generally consider the upper bound to avoid catastrophic climate change would require the world economy in 2050 to emit no more than six grams of carbon dioxide for every dollar of economic output. To put that in perspective, today the United States economy emits 60 times that much."
Grim indeed. Can you imagine Americans emitting 1/60 of the carbon that we do today?
The columnist nicely articulates the challenge and it is not a hopeless one:
"More than how to stop growth, the main question brought out by climate change is how to fully develop and deploy sustainable energy technologies — in a nutshell, to help the world’s poor, and everybody else, onto a path to progress that doesn’t rely on burning buried carbon."