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Event Details

ESRI Research Seminar: "Achieving a Safe Atmospheric Concentration of Greenhouse Gases in a Sustainable, Just, and Efficient Manner"

Venue: The ESRI, Whitaker Square, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2

Date: 23/06/2011

Time: 4 pm

Speaker: Philip Lawn (Senior lecturer in Ecological Economics at Flinders University, Australia).

The climate change issue is a policy concern that falls within the broader issue of sustainable development. Sustainable development means different things to different people. Ecological economists believe that achieving sustainable development requires the resolution of three major policy goals: (a) sustainable scale (ensuring the scale of the human economy relative to the supporting ecosphere is ecologically sustainable); (b) distributional equity (ensuring the distribution of income and wealth is equitable both within and across nations); and (c) allocative efficiency (ensuring the resources entering an economic system are allocated to their best possible use). Human-induced climate change is primarily the result of a failure to resolve policy goal (a). That is, in a world where economic activity is largely driven by the use of hydrocarbon (fossil) fuels, climate change is a consequence of the rate of resource throughput exceeding the waste assimilative capacity of the global ecosphere.

Should the global economy continue to grow at its current rate, it is unlikely that renewable energy will be available in the quantities needed to reduce climate change-inducing emissions. For this and other reasons, the world’s high-income countries must immediately make the transition to a steady-state economy – in effect, a non-growing but qualitatively-improving economy maintained by a declining rate of resource throughput. The transition by high-income countries to a steady-state economy would not only reverse the recent decline in their own well-being, it would provide low-income countries with the room required to enjoy a spurt of welfare-increasing growth before they, too, must make the transition to a qualitatively-improving steady-state economy.

Bibliographical notes: Philip Lawn is a senior lecturer in ecological economics at Flinders University, Australia. Philip has authored and co-authored six books, including Frontier Issues in Ecological Economics (2007) and Environment and Employment: A Reconciliation (2009), and numerous book chapters and papers on ecological economic issues. Philip is currently working on a climate change book and a comprehensive set of indicators to assess Australia’s sustainable development performance.

All welcome, no booking necessary. ESRI Seminars are an opportunity for research staff to present work in progress. They are aimed at other researchers and those with a particular interest in the research topic. As presentations of work in progress, they do not report final conclusions and are not for quotation.