Saturday, 16 June 2012

Harrabinly wrong on Sustainable Development

Listening to Roger Harrabin (Radio 4's environment correspondent) last night about the Rio+20 "United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development", his omission struck me squarely in the teeth.

He explained that it was climate change that was the limiting factor in global economic growth and that governmental responses to reduce carbon emissions would be responsible for reducing extractions of metals and other commodities. Of course he is wrong about the role of responses to climate change and economic growth. The past 20 years have shown quite clearly that most governments have no interest in the future of our climate no matter how terrible the consequences might be.

But this wasn't his biggest error, there was a huge and glaring omission of the role of energy in the economy. . Peak oil is the key limiting factor in economic growth, it is the ceiling and subsequently decline in availability of cheap energy which will impact most heavily on global growth.

Decoupling of growth and resource use has never happened at any significant level and the economy is subject to some fairly fundamental principles based around the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Long term global economic growth will not happen without the continued addition of huge supplies of cheap energy.

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