Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 45: An Assessment of the Growth Debate

J.C.J.M. van den Bergh and R.A. de Mooij


Jeroen C J M . van den Bergh and Ruud A. de Mooij 1. Introduction The relationship between growth and environment has been controversial for a long time. Some economists and many non-economists have argued that a rise in gross domestic product (GDP) will harm natural environments without any doubt (see Daly, Chapter 44 in this book, for an anti-growth perspective). Indeed, during the last few decades economic growth has gone along with a substantial increase in energy use, congestion and transformation of land cover. Other economists have maintained that the economy can grow for ever without harming the quality of the environment. Technical progress is then considered as a critical factor for reconciling growth and environment (see Beckerman, Chapter 43 in this book, for a pro-growth perspective). These different views on growth and the environment often give rise to debates between advocates and opponents of growth (for a unique account of this, see Myers and Simon, 1994). The aim of this chapter is to provide some clarification about these debates, and in particular to assess the economic (contra-)arguments. The standard economics perspective is essentially welfare-based, or even more restricted, namely GDP-based, where environmental destruction is only regarded as a problem in so far as it affects the present value of market exchange (or welfare in welfare/externality theory). Alternative non-anthropocentric (ecocentric or biocentric) views exist, such as based on intrinsic values in nature (see Blarney and Common, Chapter 56, and Glasser, Chapter 66 in this book), and these can explain...

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