Running Out of Gas (Podcast Episode #26)
Things Go Better with Degrowth
What if we told you the coming climate catastrophe MAY not turn out to be as bad as we all thought? I’m not sure I’m ready to buy that, but one of our guests on this episode tells us just that. IPCC worst-case scenarios seem to forget peak oil. Limited fossil fuel supplies on the planet could be a factor. But don’t break out the champagne; we still have enough fossil fuels to screw things up pretty badly. See what you think!
Our two guests for this episode:
Dr. James Ward, a sustainability science and ecological engineering researcher and educator from the University of South Australia.
Professor Paul Sutton from the Department of Geography & the Environment at the University of Denver.
We recorded this conversation just a week before Ward and Sutton were scheduled to present at the Global Scenarios Forum in Denver, March 11-13, 2019. They planned to present data and suggestions that the IPCC has up to this point not considered the full range of possible economic scenarios in evaluating various outcomes. The forum will inform scenarios used by the International Panel on Climate Change.
James Ward’s research indicates there is likely not enough recoverable coal, oil and natural gas to drive the worst-case climate change scenarios.
Paul Sutton is using nighttime satellite imagery to map and estimate human population distribution, energy consumption, economic activity, urban extent, CO2 emissions, and ecological footprints. He also teaches population geography and ecological economics.
Our conversation covered limits to growth, climate change, peak oil, and economic growth. Is the future “all about growth?” Climate change is just one part of a bigger picture need for us to shift away from our expansionist mindset. An economy that’s “already transgressing planetary boundaries” cannot be expected to “multiply by a factor of ten,” we’re told. Ward tells his classes that “growth is viewed as inevitable, possible, and desirable, and it’s none of those things.”
We have a good discussion of “the decoupling delusion” (believing we can divorce economic growth from resource depletion and negative environmental impacts). Just switching our growth-obsessed society to renewable energy won’t ensure the survival of our civilization.
Paul shares about the Grand Challenge Impact 2025 urban sustainability group he’s a part of, and how difficult it is for scientists and other sustainability advocates to wrap their heads around the idea that our population needs to contract.
– Which countries are today using more than their share of biocapacity, and which are not?
– James talks about the 3 D’s: denial, despair and delusion.
– Fantasies of the future. A pod metropolis on Mars? (Listening to PODcasts, no doubt.)
– Sutton: Killing all the bees will create jobs and grow GDP and tax revenue. “The idiot lights on the economists’ dashboard are jobs, GDP, tax revenue.”
– Al Bartlett’s explanation of exponential growth
– Ward: “We’ve got one planet here; we’ve got to get it right.”
– Running out of Soylent Green
Ultimately, we arrive at the conclusion that we need a cultural change. We need to figure out how to “thrive and enjoy a future that’s not based on growing.”
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