climate change smoke stacks Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Is Hothouse Earth Avoidable?

If our planet becomes just 2°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, we may find ourselves irreversibly headed toward a scenario characterized by excruciatingly high temperatures and frequent extreme weather events. Only rapid economic transformation can reduce the risk of such an outcome.

STOCKHOLM – Nearly 50 years ago, the Club of Rome’s report “Limits to Growth” warned that if economic growth continued apace without regard for the environment, the world could face ecological and economic collapse in the twenty-first century. Yet that is essentially what has happened. As new research for the Club of Rome shows – and the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reiterates – the world may well be headed toward disaster.

Many wrongly interpreted the “Limits to Growth” as an attack on unbridled economic expansion. In fact, the report argued that if the unlimited-growth pathway was chosen, it would require complementary policies (including funding) to preserve the planet’s finite life-support systems.

This argument has been ignored. Instead, the world has continued to pursue unbridled growth, without regard for the environmental consequences. This has enabled us to make enormous strides in reducing poverty, increasing longevity, and increasing wealth. But it has come at a high cost to the fabric of society and the resilience of the planet.

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