Essays in Honour of Horst Hanusch
Edited by Andreas Pyka, Uwe Cantner, Alfred Greiner and Thomas Kuhn
Chapter 2: Energy, Development and the Environment: An Appraisal Three Decades After the ‘Limits to Growth’ Debate
2. Energy, development and the environment: an appraisal three decades after the ‘limits to growth’ debate* Giovanni Dosi and Marco Grazzi INTRODUCTION 1. This work builds upon some long-term secular regularities concerning the relation between consumption of energy, technological progress and economic growth, and reassesses the old question raised around 40 years ago in the ‘limits to growth’ discussion (Meadows et al., 1972), namely, are the current patterns of development, and in particular the current patterns of energy use, environmentally sustainable? Without the ambition to offer any conclusive answer, in this work we try to identify some critical interpretative issues and suggest some (admittedly controversial) policy conclusions. Departing points are: (a) the long-term substitution of inanimate sources of energy for animate, starting at least with the English Industrial Revolution, (b) a slowly decreasing – on a shorter time scale – trend of energy intensity per unit of output, at least in developed countries, as the joint outcome of total energy consumption which continues to increase (IEA, 2005), and at the same time more efficient exploitation of energy itself (Grüber and Nakićenović, 1996, see also Figure 2.3). The topics we shall address are the following: 1. The environmental sustainability of patterns of energy consumption that for so long have implied the notion of the environment as a free good, without any negative social externalities and even less so any environmental threat. The importance – and limits – of relative price changes with respect to the dynamics of consumption of energy. The role of...
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