Can economic growth really solve global ecological problems like climate change?
Economics’ rationale that ‘growth is the solution’ is upheld by the ‘Environmental Kuznets Curve’ (EKC) hypothesis (left-hand graph; economic growth first increases environmental damage, but then reliably reduces it)
Unfortunately, the EKC is both empirically and conceptually challenged, raising difficult questions that cannot be ignored.
Empirically, the evidence from hundreds of studies into the EKC is very mixed. Sometimes the curve bends down, sometimes it doesn’t…?
Conceptually, the EKC denies the irreversible thresholds and ‘tipping points’ that scientists increasingly point out are the key features of climate change and other global ecological challenges. If tipping points exist, the EKC may bend backwards – a thought that seems not to have occurred to economists, betraying the sort of thinking that economics has been.
The following is an extensive presentation on economic growth and the EKC: