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Outgrowing growth: why quality of life, not GDP, should be our measure of success

by Jason Hickel

Mainstream economics still thinks growth is essential, but this blind belief in GDP is just enriching the rich and killing the planet. We don’t need more growth to improve people’s lives. By working less, buying and producing less, and investing in public services, we can improve quality of life – and fight the climate crisis.

Something big is about to happen on the climate scene. It’s been stirring just beneath the headlines for a couple of years, and over the coming decade, it’s likely to change the conversation in powerful new ways. 

In the final months of 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) grabbed the world’s attention with a new report, which stated that to avert climate breakdown, we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach zero by 2050.

It would be difficult to overstate how dramatic this trajectory is. We need to accomplish nothing less than the rapid reversal of our present direction as a civilisation. Think about it: we’ve built up a global fossil fuel infrastructure over the past 250 years, and now we have to completely overhaul it in only 30. Everything has to change in a matter of decades. 

And keep in mind that this is for the world as a whole. The transition has to happen much faster in high-income nations, given that they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of historical emissions. Scientists at the Stockholm Environment Institute estimate that countries in North America and Europe, for instance, need to reach net zero before 2030.

The IPCC report had a galvanising effect on citizen action. The month after it was published, Extinction Rebellion blockaded five bridges in central London, demanding quick action and pressing the government to declare a climate emergency. In the United States, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put forward a plan for rapid emissions reductions under the banner of the Green New Deal, which inspired a raft of similar efforts across Europe. 

Suddenly we find ourselves in completely new terrain. The old fantasy that market mechanisms will somehow magically solve the climate crisis has been thoroughly dashed, and a new consensus is emerging: we need coordinated government action on a massive scale. 

Read the whole article here

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