Economic growth is normally seen as the most important long-term macroeconomic objective. Without economic growth, so it is argued, people will be unable to achieve rising living standards. But, according to Nicholas Stern, Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics, former head of the Government Economic Service, former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, countries will need to reconsider making growth the goal of their societies.
Speaking to students at the People’s University of Beijing, Lord Stern warned that unless substantial cuts were made in carbon emissions, the effects of global warming would have devastating effects on people’s lives. As the Stern report stated, “Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.” The implications are that countries must making cutting carbon emissions a priority and must reconsider their growth strategies. In his speech he said that “Beijing should shift the economy away from heavy industry, manufacturing for exports and other high-emission activities. Instead, it should focus more on domestic consumption, service industries and low-carbon technology.”
So should countries rethink their economic objectives? Is economic growth either a necessary or sufficient condition for an increase in human welfare? Read the articles and then consider the questions below.
World must help China shift to clean growth-Stern Reuters (11/9/09)
Stern Truths: Some Parts of China Have Western-Style Emissions Wall Street Journal (11/9/09)
Stern: Rich nations will have to forget about growth to stop climate change Guardian (11/9/09)
Stern words in Beijing Hot Topic (New Zealand) (13/9/09)
- Are the objectives of economic growth and tackling gobal warming necessarily incompatible?
- What would a low carbon growth strategy look like?
- What would you include in the opportunity costs of maintaining a high growth strategy compared with switching to a lower carbon, lower growth one?
- Consider whether economic growth is (a) a necessary condition; (b) a sufficient condition for a growth in the wellbeing of the human race.