Development AND resilience vs. development OR resilience

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

At the Resilience 2014 conference, Dennis Meadows kicked off today’s plenary session by highlighting that the conference we’re at is called “Resilience AND Development” – but alternatively, it could be called “Resilience OR Development”, if we believe that humanity has already surpassed planetary boundaries. This very pertinent question was then reflected on (and later debated) by Melissa Leach and Johan Rockström, two of the big thinkers on these issues of our times.

Johan first gave a short presentation, in which he highlighted that the Holocene had actually been a climatically very stable period – enabling humanity, among other things, to develop agriculture. Leaving the Holocene behind, however, we have now entered the Anthropocene, which is characterized by rapid and exponential growth in a wide range of biophysical variables; driven by exponential growth in social and economic variables.

What makes the changes taking place in the Anthropocene particularly…

View original post 699 more words

Advertisements

Sacrificing Development Needs for Prestige

China, a country where 4 per cent of the population are still living in poverty (following the rather rigorous definition of the World Bank), is about to spend billions of dollars to enable a few Chinese astronauts a flight to the Moon by 2025. There is hardly a tangible benefit to be found in this project – except some kind of international prestige. Meanwhile, the resources (we are talking here about much more than just money, e.g. time, skills etc.) required for its successful carrying out might well be sensibly invested in development projects that would yield a high social return. China’s Moon project seeems to be a particular variation of the positional goods problem described by Fred Hirsch in 1976 – on the national rather than individual level. And it seems to be even more profound than the difficulty originally identified by Hirsch. Continue reading

Connecting Climate Science and Economics, Part 3

In this post I am going to give a summary of the third part of Climate Economics: The State of the Art by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton of the Stockholm Environment Institute, concerning recent research in the economics of mitigation and adaptation. Part 1, with a discussion of newest results from the climate science, can be found here. Part 2, summarizing the report’s findings about the economics of climate change, here. Continue reading

Connecting Climate Science and Economics, Part 2

In this post I am going to give a summary of the second part of Climate Economics: The State of the Art by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton of the Stockholm Environment Institute, which deals with recent advances in the economics of climate change. Part 1, with a discussion of newest results from the climate science, can be found here. A summary of the above report’s overview of research in the economics of mitigation and adaptation will follow. Continue reading

The “Limits to Growth” Obsession

When a typical conventional economist wants to show somebody (e.g., her students) that all the talk about the “alleged impossibility of infinite economic growth” is rubbish, it is very probable that she take the 1972 Club of Rome’s report “Limits to Growth” as her starting point. This modeling work about the limits population and resource scarcity pose to economic growth, done by a group of young PhD’s, made extrapolations of historical trends of population growth and natural resource extraction to conclude that “sustainable” economic growth is not possible and that it is likely to seize during the 21st century due to these constraints. So, the economist’s arguments goes, as you can see, population growth has slowed, we do not seem to run out of natural resources – and, if you look at the widespread Cobb-Douglas production function, you will see that this wouldn’t matter either. Ergo, infinite economic growth is possible, and Meadows et al. (the authors of “Limits to Growth”) are naive doomsayers. However, this line of argumentation is a) “too easy”, and b) wrong. Continue reading

Climate Change and Burden Sharing

Perhaps the most controversially debated issue in climate negotiation is the question of burden sharing. According to the 1992 UNFCCC, the challenge of tackling anthropogenic climate change requires “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. This by itself is politically and ethically hardly a controversy. But, as always, the devil lies in details. What does this important principle exactly mean? How are we to define “responsibility” and “capability”? And what does follow? Many approaches have been proposed. A fairly appealing one is called the Greenhouse Development Rights and was proposed by Paul Baer, Tom Athanasiou and Sivan Kartha. Continue reading

Development Assistance’s Dilemmas

A frequent demand by NGOs that deal with developing countries’ affairs is that rich countries (i.e., mainly the European Union, the US, Canada and Japan) increase the levels of their ODA (=official development assistance). In fact, developed countries commited (40 years ago) to raise their ODA to a level of 0,7% of their respective GDPs. So far, only a handful met this obligation. Meanwhile, there are many arguing that ODA is doomed to failure, so it is a wastage of time and money to engage in development assistance at all. I think that the problem is rather more complex. It is not just about whether and how much to invest in ODA – the matter is, actually, how we do it. And there are many problematic issues in this area. Continue reading