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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.
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Chapter 4: Sustainable wellbeing, necessary emissions and fair burdens

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Extract

Chapter 4 discusses some of the questions, dilemmas and opportunities that arise when the claims of human need confront the present global economic system. It asks what would constitute a moral minimum of need satisfaction across today’s world and then tries to estimate what ‘necessary emissions’ that would entail. Meeting needs will always be a lower carbon path than meeting untrammelled consumer preferences financed by ever-growing incomes. But whether it is low enough to protect the needs of future generations will depend on, first, the conflicts and synergies between the SDGs and a 2 °C mitigation strategy and, second, the presence of a global equity framework. All existing strategies ignore the role of consumption in the affluent world, yet sustainability and distribution are intimately connected. My conclusion is that equity, redistribution and prioritising human needs, far from being diversions from the basic task of decarbonising the economy, are critical climate policies.

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