First, the Report projects a world economy in 2050 still marred by extreme global inequality and poverty. The Report assumes that by 2050 at least 5 billion people will remain excluded from the "consumer class" – and many of the 3 billion who were part of this "class" would still have only a fifth of the per capita income enjoyed by Australians. We point out that if the Report took seriously the goal of lifting all people to "living standards" prevalent in the developed world – as is the assumed goal of global "development" – then much more growth would be required, and therefore the "decoupling" rate would have to be many times higher, and thus even more implausible, than the Report assumes.
Second, the Report provides us with no confidence for thinking Australia, or the world, will be on a long term sustainable path after 2050, when the scenario modeling timeframe ends. For example, the Report takes for granted that by 2050 Australia (and the world) would still have a growth economy, but it has recently been demonstrated that if the Report's most ambitious scenario was extrapolated out to 2100, sheer growth in output would entirely eliminate any resource and energy reductions that had been made.
Implications for the growth economy
If this broad critique is correct, the implications are profound: humanity must face up to the fact that the dominant macroeconomics of growth is unsustainable. This means, contrary to the claims of the Report, the most developed nations must urgently make a fundamental transition "beyond growth" and "beyond consumerism".
The message here need not be read simply as doom and gloom. Many people today are beginning to see the rich benefits of living in simpler and more frugal ways and are starting to envision alternative societal arrangements that have the potential to both avert catastrophe and liberate humanity at the same time.
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