A Sustainable Versus a Growth-as-Usual Scenario
The aim of this chapter is to simulate a ‘sustainable’ (steady-state) scenario and a ‘growth-as-usual’ scenario and compare the results. There are three good reasons for performing this exercise. Firstly, it reveals the structural changes required to achieve a safe emissions target consistent with the broader goal of sustainable development. Secondly, it enables one to assess and compare the plausibility of a conventional emissions scenario and what many would regard as a more radical emissions scenario. Finally, consideration of the plausibility of both scenarios provides valuable input when designing a global emissions-trading system or similar international policy institution. What the results in this chapter indicate is that a safe atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases cannot be achieved unless there is a global transition towards a steady-state economy, with high-GDP countries making the shift immediately and low-GDP countries doing likewise in the near-to-medium future. Given this conclusion, it is argued that the ideal global strategy is to increase the per capita Gross World Product (GWP) from its current level of around Int$9,000 to an optimal value of Int$15,000 (2004 prices), where it should remain thereafter. Efficiency-increasing technological progress should then be harnessed to augment the welfare benefits generated from a given stock of physical goods and reduce the lost natural capital services associated with maintaining the global economy at its optimal scale. At the same time, income and wealth should be redistributed from rich to poor both within and between nations. By adopting this strategy, it should be possible to increase the economic welfare of people world-wide whilst achieving ecological sustainability and providing the great majority of the world’s energy needs from renewable energy sources. The same cannot be said of the growth-as-usual scenario, which is both ecologically unsustainable and welfare-decreasing.