"At its core, I feel like degrowth’s appeal comes from its implicit promise to recast genteel North European decline as some sort of grandiose world-saving moral quest."

This implies that the basic motivation of the degrowth movement is white-saviorism, or something like it, but I think it's much more basic than that: it comes from people feeling moral outrage at consumption and wealth and even just fun, and rejecting the idea that any big social problem could be solved without someone being made to repent. To degrowthers, "our current standard of living is unsustainable, so let's find technological improvements that will allow us to maintain it sustainably" is a morally repugnant line of thinking. I think degrowth most often comes from the same spirit in leftism that proposes "reckoning with" structural and historical forces, in the same way one would propose an actual policy, as though "a societal reckoning" were a policy you could implement. It's very much in keeping with your theory of wokeness as Protestantism.

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> I think degrowth most often comes from the same spirit in leftism that proposes "reckoning with" structural and historical forces, in the same way one would propose an actual policy, as though "a societal reckoning" were a policy you could implement.

Leftists really like to complain about "calling the manager" liberalism, but it seems like this and "speaking truth to power" are literally the same thing. If someone's job is to oppose you, they're going to do that and trying to make them feel bad is not necessarily going to defeat them.

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Yep, like Abolitionism, women’s suffrage, Temperance, the various Great Awakenings, the Great Awokening, Civil Rights, and Feminism, Degrowth is driven by that righteous Calvinist Puritan impulse. Some of them go off the rails (look at Cromwell). Not surprising that Degrowth is strongest in Northern Europe and among similar types in the US.

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I think you're giving the degrowth more credit than it is due, nonetheless this a superb piece that knocks it down thoroughly

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Something I would hope degrowthers can agree with: we want to increase human flourishing while decreasing emissions and waste. Another thing I hope they can agree with: GDP is not the same thing as either flourishing or waste. Historically, GDP was couple to both flourishing and waste. Conventional green growthers say we should decouple GDP from waste. Degrowthers say we should decouple flourishing from GDP. They don’t have a good case for why that decoupling is easier than the other, given that we have years of data showing one decoupling happening but none for the other (yet). Probably some of that second decoupling is possible too. But really all that matters is decoupling flourishing from waste - let GDP go whichever way it goes.

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I'm not sure I understand what it would mean even hypothetically to decouple flourishing from GDP but not decouple GDP from waste. It seems plain to me that if I had to permanently give up my current standard of living for the current world average standard of living, I would feel that my life had been ruined. I would fight to the death anyone who tried to do that to me, let alone the entire first world. Does "decouple flourishing from GDP" mean convincing me that I would actually be just fine? Does it mean convincing everyone that they don't *really* need refrigerators, AC, or fast convenient transportation? Does it mean using resources so efficiently that I *can* keep my current standard of living while using far fewer resources (but surely that's still attacking the GDP-waste link, not the flourishing-GDP link?) Does it mean some other thing I haven't figured out?

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What waste do you refer to?

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Mainly CO2 emissions, but I'm just using it as a general term for environmental destruction, whether it's a byproduct of extraction of resources or disposal of wastes or anything else.

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In the first extended section of the article you say that de-growth won't work because people in rich countries won't give up their SUV's, beef, large homes etc (In other words the goods they consume) for the good of the planet, nor will people in poor countries be willing to remain poor without any of the consumer goods that people in wealthier countries have simply for the good of the planet.

Then in the second part of your article you suddenly completely pivot to the opposite point of view and say that people will happily give up their consumer products (thus effectively making them all poorer) so that a lot of economic production can be transferring from producing consumer goods to producing green infrastructure for the good of the planet.

You really have to make your mind up about this one way or the other- do you think people will give up consumer goods and some of their quality of life for the good of the planet or not?

You can't have it both ways.

Governments forcing a transition to a greener economy still makes a lot of sense but I think you need to think out your arguments again to be more consistent.

Think that those who study the growth of the Chinese economy

(including all those many coal plants they plan to construct),

the Chinese workers working in sweatshops,

the Australians and others who supply China with resources,

the many countries touched by China's Belt and Road initiative and other China watchers would be surprised by the claim that China

is growing it's economy in a newer, greener, less resource dependent way than did the current developed countries.

And although you think little of Northern Europeans' concern for the environmental devastation humans are creating on this planet perhaps you might spare a thought for the many, many people in poorer countries who are very concerned about the impact humans are having on the planet.

You don't think that people in Bangladesh worried about sea level rise or farmers in Ethiopia, Syria or India struggling to survive because of drought or residents of large cities in India, China, etc dealing with horrendous air pollution don't worry about the impacts humans have on the environment.

Plus, even those many young people in poorer countries not currently greatly effected by environmental damage almost all have access to smart phones and the internet and are very likely very aware of climate change and other environmental issues.

Remember seeing a quote from a man in China who said about China, "Our air is polluted. Our soil is polluted. Our water is polluted. In ten years we will all have cancer".

So yes people in poorer countries don't want to stay poor forever for the good off the planet but to suggest that it is only rich, privileged, head in the clouds Northern Europeans who are concerned enough about climate change to support efforts to do something about it is nonsense and ignores the fact that climate change most hurts those who are the least privileged and also is a bit patronizing towards people in less wealthy countries who believe or not do have a connection to the internet and do have some idea of the impact climate change is having on the world.

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Yes, I would agree. This essay comes off as very patronizing if it is claiming that people in the Global South only care about their financial well-being and supposedly don't have the morality to sacrifice this for global environmental concerns. It also assumes that other cultures have the same values as the capitalist West and that these values are superior to those that are endemic to the Global South.

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Have you guys ever talked to an actual person in the global south?

People in Ethiopia, Syria or India are absolutely looking forward to increasing globalization and development.

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Seriously? Wow.

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Thank you for this. I read his article twice and thought about printing it out and using highlighter. He's all over the place but ultimately what I got is that he thinks that economic growth is more important than quality of life/environmental protection.

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This is typical short-term economist thinking. You say that past trends can't predict future trends, but then assume that because growth has been achieved via reducing resource consumption that growth can continue forever without demanding more resources. You cannot keep increasing efficiency infinitely.

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This does not address the fundamental argument of the piece, which is that efficiency-led green growth is the only solution that will actually happen. Even if degrowthers are right that efficiency gains will not solve the problem (a proposition for which there is no evidence), that is a position designed for self-righteousness and moral certainty, i.e. it is a position for the kind of person who doesn't actually want to save the world, they just want to be able to say "ah, you should've listened to me" amidst the wreckage of a dying planet.

We have one bet at actually, you know, solving the problem, which is to raise efficiency as dramatically as possible as quickly as possible. We have a good reason to believe this can at least solve *most* of the problem, because there are a lot of obvious efficiency gains (solar power, etc.) lying on the floor.

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But for all we know we're not anywhere near the sweetspot between efficiency and population size.

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The author forget about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and that the provision of services depends on the physical infrastructure. How to "play video games" without all the equipment (computers, TVs, consoles, etc.) and all the communication infrastructure? The production of solar panels uses non-renewable natural resources. Unfortunately a green illusion (https://jrgarcia1989.medium.com/green-illusion-92244a28c461).

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Why not?

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The laws of thermodynamics?

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Increasing efficiency can go on as long as people are free to innovate and invest and adapt and substitute and use their ingenuity to do things more effectively. All that is prevented by your law of thermodynamics? I don't think so.

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...do you not understand how the laws of thermodynamics apply to turning things into other things?

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The law of thermodynamics suggests a limit to the efficiency of a particular technology applied to a particular task, say the internal combustion engine used for a daily commute. But it is ridiculous to suggest that places a limit on increasing economic efficiency. We find new fuels, engines superior to the ICE, we can reduce our commutes, we can substitute zoom, we can living closer etc There are infinite ways of getting around the law of thermodynamics with human imagination, innovation and adaptability.

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To start with the absolute bare minimum: how do you propose we feed people without losing some energy?

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"All of this requires planning. Lots of planning!"

Albert Einstein told us in 1949 that capitalism is inherently evil. I believe a few others of significance throughout history have reached the same conclusion. His solution was socialism or "social planning." Lots of it.

And we can't do this while we compete with others. We have to collaborate and coordinate with each other by ending our predatory phase of capitalism.

As Noah mentioned, we have different countries at different levels. We have some countries with lots of resources and others with little resources. So this planning needs to be global, and we can't accomplish that if we are trying to conquer other countries.

Degrowthers have a point in that growth demanded by Wall Street analysts might be great for investors, but are they good for the planet, workers, etc.?

And economists have allowed "externality costs" to be absorbed by society. We need to start capturing those externality costs and applying them as regular costs of providing that good or service. If burning oil causes an additional $6 billion in damages to our health and planet, guess what, no more ignoring it. Hold Big Oil accountable for those costs. Now, what will be the real cost of gasoline once you factor in the externalities, etc.

Same with your meat production example. What are the external costs of producing meat? I know a vast dead lake in Ohio and residents who live in that town who would claim billions of damages from lost enjoyment, leisure, recreation, home appreciation, lost business, etc.

What's the square footage of our Gulf that is now a dead zone where the Mississippi River flows?

We need to capture all those costs which are conveniently excluded. What about the cost of these fires and the increased intensity of storms globally?

I could go on all morning on the so-called market-based economic system we use and how inefficient they are in what Noah refers to as the "rich countries."

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We offloaded most of our social planning to corporations.

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Sadly, that is true. And seeing that a corporation has no social responsibility (by definition and MBA instructed), that is the problem with Western societies. The CEO's only concern is maximizing profits for shareholders. And, when the Federal Reserve has the same mission, workers and the planet get screwed.

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> The CEO's only concern is maximizing profits for shareholders.

The CEOs don't believe this and neither does anyone else.


Actually, the shareholders don't believe it either, since they're happy to invest in tech companies that don't give them voting rights.

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Is there a reason to believe that social planning is superior to spontaneous order?

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From Einstein's conclusion, and the evidence we're presented with today in the Western capitalist markets, human beings are both individual and social creatures.

Competitive marketplaces (he had much to say about the US's educational model as well) pits our instincts against each other. We end up dominating others because of our egos. The weaker, social instincts, become a source of resentment. Well, except for sociopaths, who seem to really thrive under the current systems. Look at the number of sociopaths in our existing kakistocracy/kleptocracy in top positions.

To me, it's rather telling that both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden discuss the autocracy of China vs. Western Democracies as the defining moments for historians. However, we rank 25th as a global democracy. A Princeton concluded we were an oligarchy. Truth be told, we've been an oligarchy since our formation and even before that.

Those oligarchs have been using their money and influence (with the help of the military and 5i's) to do "social planning". Not very democratic. It's oppressive and worker productivity has mostly been flowing to CEOs and shareholders for the past 40 years making it worse.

Resources are flowing upward as you'd expect. I can't wait to see how the billions/trillions given to states have been spread about. Any educated guesses?

Most of the great thinkers derived the same thing when given the chance humanity would destroy itself. The USA is an amazing petri dish right now.

I would like at Einstein's dictum. Since he wrote it in 1949, we've gotten worse - much worse. We've become even more oppressive.

For instance, why do our oligarchs fear a truth-teller like Julian Assange so much?


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No offense but out of your ~300 or so words, not a single sentence actually had anything to do with my question.

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The US is adrift as a nation. Lots of squabbling and no action.

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This is a good article, but overall I'm a bit confused as to how your points for green growth are politically feasible while degrowth proposals aren't. How do things like:

* A forced rapid transition to green electricity

* Forced rapid electrification of most energy use

* The forced rapid adoption of low-emissions heat for industrial processes

* Forced restriction of deforestation

survive the political realm? In particular you state that:

"In addition, even when the tragedy of the commons doesn’t exist, countries need to manage their natural resources in a far-sighted way. The U.S., for instance, has done a lot of this with land conservation, but failed to do this with respect to aquifers. Governments have to be more far-sighted than their citizens, saving resources for future generations instead of letting the current generation consume everything."

but that kind of far-sighted planning is politically infeasible, which is why we don't have land-use policies and carbon taxes that make beef and carbon-intensive fuel sources prohibitively expensive. That same issue is why rapid green growth is politically difficult.

The crux of the problem is described by the above quoted paragraph and this one:

"This is an absolutely enormous economic undertaking, and it is economic growth. It will require delaying some consumption so that the next generation can enjoy both higher standards of living and a more sustainable planet. But crucially, it represents delaying consumption, rather than permanently reducing consumption. That’s the big difference between green growth and degrowth."

Right now our paradigm is that resources don't really run out, we just need to develop better technology to access them. So long as that attitude holds people aren't going to be willing to reduce consumption now even for the promise of more later, because why should they have to? We've largely grown up with the notion that we can't actually exhaust the resources we use, so why should we reduce consumption?

There's an efficiency component to contend with, of course. If every person on the planet had the standard of living of France and the per capita CO2 equivalent emissions (6.44 tonnes per capita as of 2018) to match we'd still have to deal with 50 Gt/yr of CO2e. That's an insurmountable amount of emissions to deal with and ultimately that's the problem that needs to be solved. It's not at all clear what standard of living is sustainable right now. What is minimum CO2e per capita that can produce the French standard of living for every person on the planet? Is that even possible, or will our overall standard of living need to take a hit in order to ensure that future generations have a shot?

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I'm not sure where you're going with the "genteel North European decline" snark here? Northern Europe is not only the richest, but fastest-growing sub-region in Europe, both in economic and demographic terms. So, where's the "decline?" The economic recovery of the most Northerly EU economies post-COVID may even, by economist projections cited in Bloomberg just last week, outstrip that of the United States! And all the while while curbing consumption (VAT, anyone?) in order to increase investment (which has long been considerable) toward less carbon-intensive economic activity. Degrowth it ain't. But nowhere does any Northern European country claim it to be.

Nordic countries like Sweden are doing exactly the "green investment" model you're recommending here, with a per capita carbon emission that is a fourth that of the United States and while matching American economic growth, and even *outstripping* the United States' demographic growth.

Oh, and Sweden has a higher percentage of (carbon-intensive) manufacturing and a more export-dependent economy than the United States', too, so it's not an economy built on vaporous social media and NFTs, either. Sweden just recently started commercial production on the world's first carbon-neutral steel plant, using iron ore dug up from the world's oldest continually operating ore mines. It's developing some of the world's first commercial viable renewable aviation fuels, which is a good thing because Swedes fly even more than Americans do. Swedish homeowners are deploying heat-pumps at a fast clip to heat their houses and apartments in the notoriously chilly (and energy-hungry) winters. They're deploying EVs at a fast clip, with electric-hybrid SUVs as the fastest growing category. So, "genteel Northern Europe" certainly presents a very attractive model to emulate for any American who wants both growth and to forestall Apocalyptic future, here.

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I'm saying that genteel decline is what the degrowthers *want*. They just want to make that look like a noble world-saving mission.

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That is not clear from your phrasing, which makes it sound like genteel decline is indeed what Northern Europe is having.

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The US belief in the decline of Northern Europe is like a religion. It has been going on for as long as I have lived. The area would be in the stone age by now if all of that was true.

But it's not true, it's just a US talking point for avoiding to have to make any effort in improving anything. Watching "debate" in the US is like watching a debate from the 1950s. Grow up.

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Here (in supposed "Northern Europe"), we are not even aware of any such entity. There is UK and there is sparsely populated Scandinavia - vastly different places, economies, and societies. Then there is european part of Russia, which is actually quite northern and sells natural gas to EU and China, and is not declining by any means...

... or is supposed Northern Europe everything north of Spain, Italy and Greece?

This reminds me of eu-wide religion that USA is on the brink of societal collapse, dollar will go bust tomorrow, and americans will just chaotically shoot each other until last man standing :-) It seems some europeans get a sense of USA from Mad Max, and some americans get a sense of Europe from french new wave :-)

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I've never heard of this "decline of Northern Europe". What I have heard of is the decline of central/southern Europe, which by all accounts is true. Like Italy having not increased its GDP in like 20 years. And this "failed austerity" meme also applies to central/southern Europe, except the stagnation didn't start with austerity - it's been going on for like 20 years.

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Who are they?

The reality in Northern Europe is that there is a political will, people are to a large degree onboard and do make daily choices to save the environment. The awareness and willingness to do the right things is on a completely different planet compared to the US.

The decline of the US as a world influencing power is probably a good thing, both left and right are so lost.

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The problem of degrowth can be boiled down to one thing: for centuries, economics has always treated Nature as an enemy to be conquered and consumed in the quest for growth; degrowth keeps this attitude, just treating Nature as an enemy that we must surrender to. Like, I was seeing a video on geoengineering and it’s funny how they call the initiative as a “fight” against climate change. Don’t they realize that they’re saying they’re just fighting against themselves? There is only one world and we are part of it. All those dreams of Mars colonies are just Elon Musk’s drug-induced hallucinations. The vast majority of mainstream economic models never really considers this.

That being said, I wonder what can be done, because degrowth does sound like a very privileged way to look at things. See in my country, Brazil. Bolsonaro’s Ministry of Environment is something that was ripped off from 1984, the objective of the Ministry of Environment is destroy and consume the environment in a quest to be an agro-exporter because economic theory of comparative advantages says so. Talk about degrowth (or even forced green growth), and you will be labelled a communist and, if Bolsonaro has its way, a political prisoner soon.

A greener growth will require planning indeed, to the horror of libertarians that don’t seem to understand that Nature is unable to give a single flying burger to John Galt’s 3-hour speech, but that will also require a change in how we see things. In South America, if there is one thing Nicolás Maduro and Jair Bolsonaro have in common is the machismo (I know the English term is sexism, but it really doesn’t capture half of the strength of the word). In South America, if you are in a position of power and is caught in something, you don’t resign; you double down because if they retreat from their position, you will lose. And while we still have this attitude as a people, there’s not much hope. But economic theory has to change as well, stopping to treat Nature as an enemy, as something to be subjugated would help a lot.

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Sorry reality hurts, but your options are orderly unwind, or disorderly collapse. You can keep your fingers in your ears, but show us a plan on how we do we a full rollout of wind + solar + ev within the timespan necessary to protect us from your already conservative climate apocalypse estimates.

The numbers don't add up. It doesn't matter what political willpower there is, if you actively just smile while yelling "I can't hear you", you are part of the problem instead of even trying for a solution. Nature abhors an exponential, and trying to make a planet with 10 billion people living in first world conditions is an exponential growth fairy tale.

No its neither fair to people in third world countries, nor just that western countries will steal what they can while we all fall down together, but reality doesn't care about your feelings. We can solve this, but we lost the time we had to make a soft landing. Now maybe we can land with the emergency chute and just break our legs.

Doing what you propose is pretending you can make a parachute out of string and some bedsheets while the ground is zooming towards your face.

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Economists, degrowthers, Greta and you are all missing a very probable scenario: humans will use all oil, gas and coal in next few hundred years, and then go on to other energy sources. Environment will probably change, and life will just go on. Tribal societies could make it from Alaska to Kalahari. So will modern society. If it gets 5C warmer and sea 10m higher, life won't just stop.

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Millions if not billions of people will starve to death but who cares after all, life won’t just stop.

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You can also say that about nuclear war.

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Yes - in extremis, humans would probably survive nuclear war to some extent. The immediate discomfort of it is however much, much greater than future necessity to move 10 meters above current coast line and buy an air conditioning unit for hot summers. Which is why every person in this comment thread produces much more CO2 than an average asian or african, but not one of us fondles around with nukes :-)

We actually care about nukes. We only signal virtue with co2.

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This 1,000 times over.

Degrowth is simply recognizing that more humans who want high living standards is a is bad ethically (the population of large wild animals has dropped by 60% over the past 50 years. Only part of this is related to climate change) environmentally, and for mental health. We weren’t made to live on top of one another in million person clumps.

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This is just a lengthier version of the "but guys we don't actually need to change that much about what we are doing" that has been said many times before by folks on Easter Island, Mayans, etc.

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- Noah, let’s go over this one last time. Some relative decoupling of resource consumption and growth is obviously possible; but there is consensus among a vast majority in science that a fast and large absolute decoupling is highly implausible. It is true that extrapolating from past trends is not a good argument, Degrowthers should not overuse this. But it is on Growthers to explain how the fuck they want to turn the very slight bend at the end of the trend into the absolutely miraculous decoupling that we need, all in the span of 20 years. I once read that the pace of innovation (expressed as some obviously imperfect measure, like patents or something like that), would have to accelerate by the factor 400 to do that (forgot where).

- It is true that we don’t “need” Degrowth in the strict sense of some Neo-Malthusian limits to growth; indeed, economic growth may turn out to be biophysically possible for, say, another 20-50 years. The problem only is that it might kill 8 billion people and destroy most of what we call civilisation in the process. In that sense, I find Degrowth preferable.

- Measuring resources in tons is a bad measure, that is true. However, for many purposes it’s still a better measure than dollars (i.e. what mainstream econ does); and ecological economists’ arguments also rely on many much less problematic measures like hectares of land, litres of fresh water, functional biodiversity et al. -> Noah picks on a weak but insignificant link in Degrowthers’ arguments

- “China and India etc. can use our technologies to follow a less destructive growth path“ -> yeah, they could, in a world that would look much like what Degrowth proposes: In the status quo, technologies are either monopolised (almost always by Western corporations, e.g. many of the services that Noah speaks of) or their use is not profitable enough (e.g. solar energy). In addition (Noah does not mention this), these countries import most of the ecological impact of the North. So if we want India to follow a sustainable growth path, we would need to abolish intellectual property rights; have the state massively rollout renewables; and end unequal global trade. If we did all that, we would be much closer to Degrowth than to capitalism. So Noah is, by implication, arguing for Degrowth here. Thx.

- “forcing developing countries to stay in poverty would be bad” -> indeed, which is why no Degrowther every proposed anything but the exact opposite. No need to react to this dirty straw man.

- “People are not ready for Degrowth” - Noah calls this the “political” argument, and this is indeed political, but since when is it an argument? Would we have had any progress in human history if those fighting for it had given up whenever they came to the conclusion that people are not ready for it? Besides, it is not like approval rates for capitalism and imperialism are great right now across the globe; and billions of people are resisting it in multitudes of ways.

- Noah discards Degrowth as a central planning fantasy as it “would (…) require deep changes in the entire way that the global economy works.” Well, the global economy has changed multiple times; most recently in the two “globalisations” of 1870-1930 and 1970-2020 and the two “de-globalisations” of 1930-1970 and 2021-?; and in all of these transformations planning has played a role, but nothing too crazy.

- I love the end. Noah argues for some crudely Leninist type of eco-socialism that he calls “forced green growth”: a forced rapid transition to green electricity, a forced rapid electrification of most energy use, the forced rapid adoption of low-emissions heat for industrial processes and forced restriction of deforestation. I have absolutely nothing against any of these policies, and I think any sensible person would agree. But I would ask Noah why we don’t already have all of these policies in place. Does he have an answer that is more convincing than Degrowthers’ analysis which points out that the most likely reason we don’t have any of these policies is that they would constrain capital accumulation and economic growth?

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Noah Smith: degrowth's program is "pragmatically impossible to implement" (people will vote against it)

Also Noah Smith: "Forced green growth ... Lots of planning ... infinitely less planning than [degrowth] ... unlike degrowth, they are possible"

Problem 1. Smith's "infinitely" rhetoric is a way to punt on specifying just how much planning is required.

Problem 2. Smith cites no empirical study in support of "forced green growth" being pragmatically possible. Assertion is not evidence.

Also Noah Smith:

" delaying consumption ... That’s the big difference between green growth and degrowth."

"People are willing to delay consumption for a brighter future."

"not impoverishing themselves, they’re just delaying gratification"

"consume less today, so you can consume more tomorrow"

Problem 3. Smith never specifies delay durations. For a range from 1 to N years, how large share of the voting population in rich countries will actually net benefit from the delays being enacted? For example will currently 70+ year old US citizens benefit from a 30 year delay?

I submit that if (1) the assumptions about voters implicitly needed for the "pragmatically impossible" critique of degrowth are true and if (2) the delays are 30+ years long (meaning plenty of now living voters will not even live to get the delayed gratification) then Smith's forced green growth is likely also "pragmatically impossible".

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Two Things:

- Never really heard of the Degrowth Movement.

- Can't imagine mitigating climate change has a coherent ideological approach. At the end of the day, CO2 equivalent PPM is all the world cares about, not our high-minded philosophy for getting there.

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Your argument only makes sense if you can put a timeline on your "forced green growth" proposal. Do you know how long it takes to retrofit an electricity grid? How long it takes to explore for new minerals, permit, construct, and get a mine to production? Replace every steel-making facility in China? Put everything on hold and conduct an investigation because your new technology just caught on fire?

The history of energy transitions shows they typically take 50-100 years. Could we move faster? Probably. But I don't think we could do this any faster than 30-40 years, which may not be fast enough. My estimate is besides the point though, which is that you haven't put in the work to show that a green transition can happen fast enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. You also need to consider whether we have the resources to accomplish this in the first place. There was a recent IEA report on critical minerals that you may want to have a look at.

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There is a finite amount of oil, coal and gas (the energents of real pollution importance). If USA (or many more countries) stop using it, how does it help the planet if the other half of the population keeps using that much more of it for growth of their fossil-fuel based economies, and growth of population?

If the developed countries don't militarily force (pretending we can for the sake of argument) 100 million of Russians, Egyptians, Ethiopians, 200 millions od Brazilians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, 400mio Indonesians, 1.5 billion Indians... the list grows amazingly even without mentioning China... what kind of global climate predicament do we think will persuade them not to use cheap energy?

Meanwhile, super-developed Canada and Norway keep on selling their oil to anybody that pays for it, and Germany is still digging up coal (!!!) while being super-aware :-)

The degrowther fable has an inconvenient truth in it: stopping the use of cheap and simple dug-out energents can only be achieved by brute force. Thus it will not be achieved. All the coal and oil and gas will be used by somebody, unless nuclear energy become cheaper at the point of use (forget about 100 year externalia).

If anyone of us would actually be serious about immediate CO2 action, we need to build nuclear powerplants south east Asia and Africa with our own money, and sell them subsidized energy at lower cost than digging out oil and coal.

But we are not actually serious.

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We could also just buy coal and oil at higher rates and just store it somewhere to prevent its use.

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This is genuinely a fantastic idea - we buy the lot, store it for possible hard times, and this activity actually creates gdp :-)

First problem is who are "we",

And second is political backlash and international tensions as africans and half of asia would start perishing from hunger and consequent social violence because of fighting for elementary resources :-)

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Certainly, your comment is not actually serious.

"There is a finite amount of oil, coal and gas (the energents of real pollution importance). If USA (or many more countries) stop using it, how does it help the planet if the other half of the population keeps using that much more of it for growth of their fossil-fuel based economies, and growth of population?"

That question hinges on the premise that if a country like the US stops using oil, coal, and gas, other countries will soon step in to use "that much more of it". But you give no evidence for that premise, and it's a priori implausible. Poorer countries are poorer, after all; if the US stopped using oil, coal, and gas, could a poorer country of similar size afford to immediately buy enough additional oil, coal, and gas to fill the gap? I expect there would be some elasticity, with the withdrawal of US demand initially reducing prices somewhat, but why would the elasticity be so high as to allow (e.g.) Indonesia to step up its demand by the same amount?

"If anyone of us would actually be serious about immediate CO2 action, we need to build nuclear powerplants"

No, because building nuclear power plants isn't immediate. On average they take 10 years to build (https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2020-table2-constructiontimes2010-2019.pdf). Even the speediest countries (China, South Korea, Pakistan) take 5 or 6 years on average.

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Almost all poor countries are buying oil and gas and coal, and their consumption is rising. They are not in stone age, they are just poor. They can afford it.

Yes, nuclear power would take 10, possibly 20 years. Is that too long? Will "the wold end" if we dont stop using oil today? What do you think we will actually do in this time? My guess is we'll continue to use oil and gas, and Canada and Norway will continue to dig it out of the ground and sell it to anybody who pays for it.

My proposition for building nuclear power fir them is of course rather cheeky, but it is an example of what it would take if we actually cared. Driving an EV and sorting waste won't cut it - if co2 emissions are actually something you try to curb. What I am trying to explain is that if you LOOK AT OUR ACTIONS, not our words, we don't care at all. It's all virtue signalling.

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I'm not seeing an actual rebuttal of my two points.

I didn't claim that poor countries can't buy any oil and gas and coal. I questioned the idea that, if (e.g.) the US stopped buying oil and gas and coal, a poor country would step in to buy enough ADDITIONAL oil and gas and coal to keep total demand constant.

And I care more about the fallaciousness of your nuclear-power proposition than its cheekiness. I was puncturing your absurd claim that people serious about "immediate" CO₂ action would have to build nuclear power plants. Instead of defending that claim (which you can't, because it's absurd; the timeline simply doesn't make sense), you've resorted to leading, rhetorical questions. I wish you would signal some epistemic virtue!

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P.S.: I see the timeline of next 10-20 years as "immediate" in matters such as global co2 output. I understand this might be unconventional enough to wake the online logic police. I just don't believe anything AT ALL will be done in shorter term (2-3 years, or even shorter).

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I see you take yourself much more seriously than I do. To give more precision:

Ad question nr 1: other countries will replace US and European consumption of Arab oil and Russian gas IN TIME - not in the next 2 years, but in 20 years or so with their predictable economic and population growth. I thought serious people find this self-explanatory. The total global consumption of fossil fuels is rising as we speak.

Ad 2: if building nuclear for them is absurd, and degrowth is absurd, and militarily forcing "others" not to use oil is absurd... what isn't absurd?

What is your suggestion? Are you seriously proposing that moving USA and developed Europe (cca 10% of global population) away from fossil fuels will stop climate change?

My suggestion is not to take myself to seriously. I have a diesel car, I eat meat (probably much bigger co2 effect) my house is heated by gas, and I love my life.

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I appreciate you taking us seriously enough to correct your position on the first point. Yes, I agree that other countries would replace US and European consumption "IN TIME" (as opposed to the original assumption that they would do so immediately).

On the second point, you still haven't got a handle on what I actually wrote: I didn't claim that it'd be absurd to build up poor countries' nuclear power, I wrote that it was absurd to assert that such a build-up was a prerequisite for "be[ing] serious about immediate CO2 action".

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