Image credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund, used under Creative Commons license.
From aggressive emission cuts stimulating economic recovery to claims that cutting carbon necessitates de-industrialization, we've seen a lot of talk about what a cleaner, greener future would mean for our economy. James Murray, editor of Business Green, has just fired off an interesting salvo into the debate—claiming that when we look back on the advent of the green economy, it will look as inevitable as the revolutions happening in the Middle East as we speak.
How so?Uprisings in Middle East and North Africa Inevitable
Starting out by charting how the unrest in the Middle East was made inevitable as a result of the rise of social networking, the demographic change that lead to a political elite that was out of step with the majority of its young population, and the revelations of political corruption and material excess that came via WikiLeaks, Murray then goes on to argue that the case for a green economy is becoming equally unanswerable.
Green Economy Better than Business-as-Usual
It is, of course, no secret that climate skepticism and opposition to clean energy remain high, but Murray argues that with recurring oil spikes, rising food costs, and global instability all becoming major factors for national security, a greener economy is looking pretty darned good whether you care about melting ice caps or not. All this is fueled by a major new UNEP report that suggests the green energy future will be more prosperous than business as usual:
"The simple and largely uncontested realities are that investment in energy efficiency delivers net economic benefits within five to 10 years; low-carbon energy sources and business models tend to be more labour-intensive than business-as-usual models, creating employment opportunities; more sustainable approaches to agriculture, fisheries and resource extraction lead to reduced costs relating to degraded ecosystem services and reduced risks relating to resource depletion; and the initial costs of the transition are manageable when set against total levels of capital investment each year even given the current state of the global economy."
Can Economic Growth Last?
Advocates of a no growth economy may sigh at the unbridled techno-econo-optimism of it all, but Murray doesn't leave them out either. He acknowledges that there are valid questions "over whether GDP growth can continue indefinitely in a finite world, and whether we need a better measure of economic progress" but, he states, it is increasingly clear that a green economy is way smarter—economically and environmentally—than the status quo.
Really, I find it hard to fault Murray's reasoning. My only concern is that assumptions of inevitability can be a dangerous thing. Activism beats prophecy every time. We can't put our feet up just yet...
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