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NRTEE: Climate Change To Cost Canada Billions

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Protesters at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, September 26, 2011

The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) has just released a new report on the impacts of climate change in Canada. Entitled Paying the Price, the NRTEE concludes that climate change will cost Canadians about $5 billion a year by 2020. Costs will continue to climb steeply, to between $21 billion and $43 billion a year by the 2050s — depending on how much action is taken on reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions and how fast the economy and population grow, the analysis says.

Keep in mind that the NRTEE is not an environmental organization. It is a group of business leaders, academics and researchers chosen by the federal government to advise Ottawa on how to deal simultaneously with challenges in the economy and the environment.

What is astonishing about this analysis is not only the high anticipated costs or the Conservative government’s delusional response to the report, in which they still purport to be taking climate change seriously despite all evidence to the contrary. The NRTEE says the final costs will ultimately depend, at least partially, on how fast the economy grows. Yet maximizing economic growth is precisely the principal objective of every country in the world, no matter how wealthy, and Canada is no exception. Witness this article in today’s Globe and Mail, which celebrates even a minor uptick in economic growth. Herein lies the conundrum: politicians, economists and policy makers want growth at the highest rate possible. But according to the NRTEE, the more our economy grows, the worse – and more expensive – the impacts of climate change will be. Make sense?

Maryland to use Genuine Progress Indicator in measuring progress: Is Happiness Really Priceless?

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Jessica Pearce Rotondi: Is Happiness Really Priceless?

For regular readers of Earthgauge, you will know that I have often written of the need to make use of alternative economic indicators besides the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The GDP is merely a measure of the total economic activity in a country and ignores whether such activity is good or bad for society as a whole. For this reason, more oil spills, litigation and increased cancer rates actually cause the GDP to go up.

This would be no big deal if economists and the media at large didn’t take the GDP so seriously and use it as the principal indicator of whether the economy is faring well. We hear ad nauseum that things are good when GDP growth is going up. When GDP is flat or, heaven forbid, going down, we are told the economy is in a sorry state indeed. Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth are, after all, the textbook definition of a recession.

The assumption is that people are suffering when the GDP is not growing and this may indeed be the case for some. But GDP growth does not necessarily indicate that we are any better off either. If we liquidate our forests, for example, the GDP would go up considerably at an obvious environmental and long-term cost. Rapid exploitation of the Alberta tar sands will also boost Canada’s GDP considerably without accounting for the environmental devastation taking place or the tar sands’ contribution to climate change.

There is a desperate need for additional economic indicators to give us a better picture of the true economic, social and environmental health of a nation. This is why I was very pleased to read this article in the Huffington Post today, which describes how the state of Maryland will start using the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) in addition to the GDP in assessing the economic health of the state. From the article:

Turning what “makes sense” in people’s life decisions into actual cents, GPI assigns a dollar value to things like housework, volunteering, and commute time, while subtracting from GPI the cost of crime, divorce, and water pollution. The goal of GPI is to look beyond bottom lines to take into account the many disparate economic, environmental and social elements that make up our lives and using that data as an indicator of social progress.

This is encouraging news indeed. We can only hope that Maryland’s adoption of the GPI is a measure that other jurisdictions will watch closely and soon follow.

 

Gross National Happiness

September 5, 2011 1 comment

Great article in the Globe this week. You have to give credit to Mr Sachs. If only more economists thought this way…

In a time of high anxiety, happiness is …

Here’s an excerpt:

The time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other go

Growth of cities endangers global environment, according to new analysis

August 21, 2011 Leave a comment

New research suggests that the explosive growth of cities worldwide over the next two decades poses significant risks to people and the global environment

“Economic growth is over. Let’s move on.”

August 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out this great new video from the Post-Carbon Institute explaining why they feel the mantra of limitless economic growth is coming to an end and what this will mean for the economy, your family and you.

 

Post-Carbon Institute: 300 years of fossil fuels in 300 seconds

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Check this out…”We’re in for the ride of a lifetime.”

Environmentalists Warn of Natural Debt as Budget Cuts Loom – TIME

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Environmentalists Warn of Natural Debt as Budget Cuts Loom – TIME

“But the truly scary possibility is that the collapse could come quite suddenly, after what may seem to be a long period of global prosperity. It would only be in retrospect, after the fall, that we would see that what we thought was success was built on eating into our capital, like a consumer maxing out his credit cards to buy a second house. The global rise in food prices, which have hit their highest level globally in several decades, might be an early sign that the agricultural system that sustains (some more than others) nearly 7 billion people with the help of fertilizers and irrigation may be hitting its limits. “When the crisis hits, we’ll act rapidly, but by then it might be too late for hundreds of millions or even billions of people,” says William Rees, an ecologist at UBC.

What’s amazing to me, though, is that the very politicians who are so worried about the public debt — and who want deep spending cuts now to save our future, whatever the cost — utterly dismiss the idea that we could face an equal crisis of natural debt.”

 

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