Economic Growth in mitigation scenarios: A blind spot in climate science

Economic Growth in mitigation scenarios: A blind spot in climate science

Cover: Economic Growth in mitigation scenarios: A blind spot in climate science
04. Dec. 2018 by Kai Kuhnhenn
Heinrich Böll Foundation
For free
Place of Publication: Berlin
Date of Publication: December 2018
Number of Pages: 25
License: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
Language of Publication: English

Climate change mitigation scenarios are important instruments for developing pathways towards a climate-friendly world. They form the basis for political and social negotiations regarding the climate protection measures to be adopted. 

Unfortunately, current mitigation scenarios follow a path of economic growth because underlying socioeconomic assumptions assume further economic growth, and the modelling is done with models in which measures that would lead to less production and consumption either cannot be included or are not used due to a limited welfare concept. 

This dismisses the possibility of a fundamental shift towards a society that is not based on economic growth. Policy measures beyond the logic of growth are not included in the debate on climate policy and society as a whole. – Instead, the scenarios suggest that a temporary «overshooting» of the global warming target of 1.5°C must be accepted, and that this can remedied later with risky geoengineering technologies to remove emissions from the atmosphere. 

This short study shows that neither the use of CDR technologies is as indispensable as shown in the scenarios, nor is an overshoot unavoidable. The IPCC conclusions result from models and modelling processes that present only some of the possible developments. In contrast, the focus of this study is on economic growth and climate policy measures that envisage less production and consumption.


Table of contents:


1. Introduction 

2. Economic growth as the norm in model calculations

2.1 Pathways and socioeconomic drivers

2.2 Economic growth as the standard pathway –reasons and reactions

2.3 Conclusion 1 – New pathways must be explored

3. Are economic growth and models inseparable?

3.1 How the models work

3.2 Why models know no «less»

3.3 Conclusion 2 – The models must be furtherdeveloped

The Author



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