Managing Without Growth

Managing Without Growth

Slower by Design, Not Disaster

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Peter A. Victor

Peter Victor challenges the priority that rich countries continue to give to economic growth as an over-arching objective of economic policy. The challenge is based on a critical analysis of the literature on environmental and resource limits to growth, on the disconnect between higher incomes and happiness, and on the failure of economic growth to meet other key economic, social and environmental policy objectives. Shortly after World War II, economic growth became the paramount economic policy objective in most countries, a position that it maintains today. This book presents three arguments on why rich countries should turn away from economic growth as the primary policy objective and pursue more specific objectives that enhance wellbeing.

Chapter 7: Scale, Composition and Technology

Peter A. Victor

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


continued growth greatly increases the severity of climate change. Indeed we find that climate change is a problem in large part ‘caused’ by exogenous population and productivity growth. Rapid reductions in growth make climate change a small problem; smaller reductions in growth imply climate change is a very serious problem indeed. (Kelly and Kolstad 2001) In this chapter we analyse the impacts of humans on the environment in terms of three components: the scale of our economic activities, the composition of these activities in terms of whether they involve goods or services, and the technologies we employ. Obviously, there are huge and important differences between scale, composition and technology around the world and, to a lesser extent, within each country. We will attend to some of these differences later in this chapter. For now we will explain these components in a general way, and then introduce regional differences when we look specifically at the problem of climate change. 7.1 SCALE Many people concerned about the long-term availability of resources and the environmental impacts of human economies focus on scale. They point to the large and growing population, to increasing urbanization, to increasing economic output. The world’s population of 6.6 billion (US Census Bureau, 1 July 2007) is forecast to rise to 9 billion by mid-century (World Bank 2007c). It could be as low as 7.6 billion or as high as 10.6 billion depending on what happens to the fertility rate (the average number of children born...

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