The Two Limits Debates: 'Limits to Growth' and Climate Change
Futures, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 16-26, 2011
11 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2012 Last revised: 17 May 2012
Date Written: 2011
In this article we compare the current debate about global warming with the earlier discourse of Limits to Growth (LtG) of the 1970's. We are especially interested in the similarities of and differences between the two cases and therefore compare the policy challenges and lessons to be drawn. While the two debates differ on important issues, they share a technocratic orientation to public policy, and susceptibility to similar pitfalls. In both debates alarming scenarios about future catastrophes play an important role. We suggest that climate change policy discourse needs to focus more closely on the social, economic, and political dimensions of climate change, as opposed to its excessive emphasis on emission reduction targets. We also argue that an excessive faith in the market mechanisms to supply global warming mitigation technologies is problematic. In this respect, we provide a reality check regarding the political implications of emission targets and timetables and suggest how policy issues can be moved forward.
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