Ralf Fücks, Green Growth, Smart Growth:

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A New Approach to Economics, Innovation and the Environment, Anthem Press, 2015.

Fücks states that the overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that “Global CO2 emissions must be halved by the middle of the century in order to stabilise the earth’s climate2. He considers that, even if it is too late to limit the greenhouse effect to two degrees Celsius, we should still be doing all we can to reduce CO2 emissions.

Fücks considers that we need to talk about new opportunities in “a period of transition from the fossil-powered industrial age to a more environmentally friendly mode of production fuelled by the sun”.. In the twentieth century, crises acted
“as catalysts for the modernization of capitalism: the welfare state was a reaction to mass poverty and the rise of the labor movement, Roosevelt’s New Deal was a response to the Great Depression of the early 1930s and social democracy arose out of the destruction wreaked by National Socialism and war”.
and that the crisis caused by the bursting of the financial bubble in 2008 has been a catalyst for the next transformation of capitalism, which is manifesting itself in the spread of globalization to every corner of the globe. This transformation includes the world technological lead moving from the United States and Europe to the Pacific area; the creation of a global middle class; mobility applying increasingly to people as well as to goods and capital, and an increasing rate of innovation. All this is resulting in a strain on ecosystems, and a shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources .

A world of nine billion people will never be idyllic, but “the standard of living of today’s middle class would have turned the aristocracy of Malthus’ time green with envy”.. extraction and processing of raw materials generally goes hand in hand with high demand for energy, water and chemicals. It leaves behind desolate landscapes and contaminated groundwater. Fücks considers that only a combination of technological innovation, political leadership and individual action can generate the depth, breadth and speed of ecological transformation necessary to avoid future turbulent crises. He suggests that this requires a three pronged strategy of maximising reduction of new greenhouse gas emission, reclaiming carbon already accumulated in the atmosphere, and adapting as best we can to unavoidable climate change.

In making decisions about the directions of future economic policy, it is extremely important to take account of the environmental damage already caused by humankind’s economic activities, and likely to result in the future. But I disagree with Fücks’ claim that “The short-lived heyday of neoliberalism, market deregulation and unfettered profits is over”.

The full version of this review was published in
Energy & Environment,Vol 27(5), 2016, pp677-681

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