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Andrew W. Lo and Ruixun Zhang

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Andrew W. Lo and Ruixun Zhang

This research review discusses and analyses a unique collection of key publications at the intersection of biology and economics, two disciplines that share a common subject: Homo sapiens. Beginning with Thomas Malthus— whose dire predictions of mass starvation due to population growth influenced Charles Darwin— economists have routinely used biological arguments in their models and methods. The review summarizes the most important of these developments in areas such as sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, behavioral ecology, behavioral economics and finance, neuroeconomics, and behavioral genomics. This research review will be an indispensable tool for economists, biologists, and practitioners looking to develop a deeper understanding of the limits of Homo economicus.
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Andrew W. Lo and Ruixun Zhang

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Andrew W. Lo and Ruixun Zhang

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Climate capitalism: emissions, inequality, green growth

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 3 develops a political economy approach to understand ‘climate capitalism’, a model that aims to square capitalism’s need for profit and continual growth with rapid decarbonisation of the world economy. It analyses the major global drivers of emissions, including population growth, income growth, the eco-efficiency of production, and the global divide between emissions from production and consumption. It then turns to the role of inequalities – international and intra-national – and their impact on emissions and responsibilities for global warming. It outlines and critiques the current dominant perspective of ‘green growth’ powered by investment in renewables and carbon-saving technological change designed to decouple emissions from output. The chapter concludes by noting the current three-way contradiction between economic growth, ending poverty and dangerous climate change.

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Conclusion: a three-stage transition

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 9 concludes. The idea of common human needs provides an essential alternative to the pursuit of unsustainable consumption growth within contemporary capitalism. Needs are limited; wants are limitless. Yet the pursuit of social welfare and climate stability today cannot be separated from the dynamics and future of capitalist economies. The chapter advocates a three-stage process to reconcile human wellbeing with planetary stability. The first, more eco-efficient green growth, requires a shift from liberal to more coordinated forms of capitalism. The second, recomposing consumption, would require at the least a shift from coordinated to a more ‘reflexive’ form of capitalism. The third, degrowth, is incompatible with the accumulation drive of any form of capitalism yet is ultimately – and quite soon – essential for our future prosperity, if not our very existence. It is for this reason, among others, that this book proposes an interim strategy to recompose consumption in rich countries towards low-carbon need satisfiers. It could provide a viable route from a dangerous present to a seemingly impossible future.

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Decarbonising consumption: needs, necessities and eco-social policies

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 7 turns from production to consumption and consumption-based emissions. This leads to another policy goal for the rich world: to ‘recompose’ consumption to make it more sustainable. Yet simply redistributing income to low-income households could raise, rather than lower, emissions. This chapter therefore returns to the theory of human need. It sets out a ‘dual strategy’ methodology for identifying a minimum bundle of necessary consumption items in the UK and suggesting how it might be used to identify a maximum bundle for sustainable consumption. In this way a ‘consumption corridor’ between upper unsustainable and lower unacceptable bounds can be charted. In the light of powerful corporate and other interests shaping consumer preferences a broad strategy of upstream prevention is advocated. To implement this approach, further eco-social policies are suggested, including taxing high-carbon luxuries, more social consumption, and household carbon rationing. The conclusion notes that this whole approach challenges some fundamental principles of orthodox economics.

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Decarbonising the economy and its social consequences

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 6 surveys climate mitigation programmes to reduce territorial emissions in the global North, building on the discussion of green growth in Chapter 3. It describes current policy frameworks for cutting carbon and surveys the major carbon mitigation strategies: pricing carbon, regulation, and strategic investment. It then charts some of the distributive and social consequences of these policies and the roles that social policies can and cannot play in counteracting them. It calls for a move from reactive social policies to integrated ‘eco-social’ policies, such as ‘green new deals’ to retrofit housing and provide sustainable domestic energy. It concludes that radical and fair carbon mitigation will require a shift from the neoliberal model towards a more coordinated and actively interventionist state.

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From welfare states to climate mitigation states?

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 5 starts with social policies and their embodiment in Western ‘welfare states’. What are the new climate-related risks we can expect in the developed world and what are their implications for social policy? The chapter traces the development of welfare states and shows how they are being eroded by external and internal pressures, and have been outflanked by a rise in inequality. It applies comparative policy analysis to outline parallels between ‘climate mitigation states’ and welfare states. Such a survey reveals both common trends and significant national and regional variations. The chapter concludes by distinguishing three routes to decarbonisation – green growth, recomposed consumption, and degrowth. It sets up a framework for tracking the relationship between climate policy and social policy within these routes, which is applied in the remaining chapters.

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Heat, Greed and Human Need

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

This book builds an essential bridge between climate change and social policy. Combining ethics and human need theory with political economy and climate science, it offers a long-term, interdisciplinary analysis of the prospects for sustainable development and social justice. Beyond ‘green growth’ (which assumes an unprecedented rise in the emissions efficiency of production) it envisages two further policy stages vital for rich countries: a progressive ‘recomposition’ of consumption, and a post-growth ceiling on demand. An essential resource for scholars and policymakers.