Goran Haden

27Joined Aug 2019

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16

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Economic growth is also linked to climate change and other environmental problems, and that is already affecting mental health as IPCC clarifies.

Thanks for a great post! I think it's very reasonable to focus on what is growing, instead of thinking that more equals better, no matter what. I find that best cases might be more interesting than averages, so I've written a post about how individuals can use a surplus of money to actually increase happiness: https://medium.com/@goranhaden/ten-ways-to-buy-happiness-395cea718440 

Yes, the first one "environment" seems to be expressed in the same way as other tags. 

Ok, I was not searching for biodiversity, so I was not aware of that tag. I guess more people are searching for environment. I do not think there would be too many tags if we also have one for environmental problems, and I do not think we need more environmental tags than these three: climate, biodiversity and the environment.

The combination of environmental problems can be a global catastrophic risk, even the combination of exceeded planetary boundaries and other huge problems.

How about a tag for environmental problems? Now it's only climate change. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries

Thanks for re-reading and considering arguments. 

1-2: In the study I mentioned it’s within 50 years. Will it stay there? Earlier studies estimated this would take around 200 years, according to 
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/27/science/intolerable-heat-may-hit-the-middle-east-by-the-end-of-the-century.html  (I can’t access these studies)

Of course I do hope and believe that we can avoid the business as usual scenario, but at the same time we have all these feedback loops and combination of effects that IPCC doesn’t count. On the other hand we also have more technichal progress than expected. On the third hand, it might be a harder time for all these refugees in the future. 

As the study also mentions: “warming to 2 °C, compared with 1.5 °C, is estimated to increase the number of people exposed to climate-related risks and poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050”. Here’s another study about future wet bulb temperatures in South Asia: 
https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1603322 
The heat deaths in India and Pakistan now, is expected annually with 2 C warming.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/india-heat-wave-climate-change-1.6442517 
That contributes to less cheap food. Already, 2 in 5 britons buy less to eat in a new study: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/13/cost-of-living-golden-era-of-cheap-food-over
But I think we will also use new ways to produce food (Allfed, etc).  

I haven’t seen any numbers like: So many people will die and so much suffering/happiness do we get during next 50 years if global GDP during next 10 years is -3% annually instead of +3% due to degrowth only in rich countries. And degrowth or not, we can still choose to stop extreme poverty. 

According to a study 2020 where artificial intelligence processed as many as 500,000 scientific articles and reports from the past 20 years to find the most cost-effective balance of measures, the cost to largely eradicate global hunger by 2030, is only $ 33 billion per year in addition to what is currently being invested. That's less than 5 percent of the US military budget. If we only take the most cost-effective measures, it's enough with Sweden's defense budget to almost halve world hunger. Now it’s 2022 and with covid-19 more is required. But still, it’s not a question of increasing GDP, it’s a question of (political) will. 
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/13/ending-world-hunger-by-2030-would-cost-330bn-study-finds 

I have also summarized what IPCC says about mental health 2022, and these problems start to increase already when temperature exceeds +20 C: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EAmentalhealthandhappiness/posts/4914186425331333

With all this together, perhaps we can guess some overall numbers you’re asking for?

3. One term suggested is growth agnostic, another growth realist, a third is to say the whole sentence each time: “we should prioritize the environment and other central societal goals and then GDP will be what it becomes”.

4. Yes, EKC is a common argument. I think we have a pretty good summary of pros and cons about EKC here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuznets_curve
I can also add that we now are in the situation that less environmental impact is not enough, we need drastically less environmental impact starting now. That means we can’t have the same strategies now as 20 years ago. 

I agree that it’s a big change when we spend money on renewables instead of fossil fuels, but we’re mainly not there yet and we still have other planetary boundaries. 



 

Yes, degrowth now might mean more growth in the future than otherwise. It's better to let some air out of the growth balloon than to inflate it so hard that it bursts.

If we done the "right" things historically, we could have done so much more space exploration and other valuable choices before we caused the environmental crisis of today. But now we have wasted Earth's resources in so many useless and destructive ways in a global consumption society that now even challenges our mental health.

What we need now globally is not more overconsumption, but enough basic needs for everyone within the planetary boundaries, and free extensive sharing of the best tools for well-being, like 29k.org 

Most people agree to reduce their consumption if everyone have to do it, so we should try rationing like in past huge crisis. You can offer more free time instead of higher salaries on a society level, and compensate poor people. 

Thanks for your points. 

1. How much suffering different environmental problems will cause is, as you know, difficult to put numbers on, especially in combination. But I fully agree with Toby Ord's conclusion that it is very unlikely that humanity would become extinct this century as a result of climate change. However, I think most people will have worse lives due to environmental degradation, compared to if we stopped prioritizing growth now, which is not so dramatic as it may seem.

The pretty unknown direct climate effect that worries me the most is deadly wet bulb temperature - when it is high humidity and at the same time warmer outside than the skin's temperature which is up to 35 degrees C, the body can not cool down by sweating. Then everyone dies within a few hours outdoors, as in a wet sauna if it’s impossible to get out. This is about to hit part of southern Asia within 50 years and thus 1-3.5 billion - up to 1 in 3 human beings. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/04/28/1910114117 

To stop this, we should reach the global goal at most +1.5 degrees. Then the climate impact of rich countries needs to be reduced by 10-20 percent each year. It is very unlikely that it would happen suddenly. If we also have growth, both experience and scientifically developed models suggest that a decoupling between GDP and greenhouse gas emissions greater than 3–4 per cent per year is very difficult to achieve. Some sources for that: Schandl et al. (2016), Hickel & Kallis (2020), the simulation tool C-ROADS (developed by Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan).

2.   Ok, it’s only a 3 minutes text with different aspects, but perhaps like this? Key point: If we continue to have overall GDP growth in rich countries this decade, we will most likely exceed the planetary boundaries even more. Is it worth that?

3. I agree that degrowth is a word that sounds bad. A common response, for example from one of Sweden's most influential economists, Klas Eklund, is that we should prioritize the environment and other central societal goals and then GDP will be what it becomes. But we don't have a common word for that?

4. Absolutely in some areas for a limited time, but on a global level we only see some relative decoupling between GDP and climate emissions, no absolute decoupling. Both climate emissions and GDP are globally higher than ever. When it comes to GDP and material footprint we see no global decoupling at all. See figure 1 about this paragraph: 
https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/growth-without-economic-growth 

When something becomes more efficient, we buy more instead of choosing more free time (rebound effect). Of course, it’s not impossible that it will be different in the future, but we need to drastically reduce our environmental impact now, otherwise we’re exceeding more tipping points that can’t be reversed, like losing most of the Amazon rainforest.
 

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