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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 9: Conclusion: a three-stage transition

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Extract

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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