Paper for UN sustainable development project sets out why and how the ways energy, transport, food and housing are produced and consumed should be transformed

Paper for UN sustainable development project sets out why and how the ways energy, transport, food and housing are produced and consumed should be transformed

By Gareth Vaughan

"It is time to retool our economy to make it work within the limits of our environment, shape it to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of all our people, and for our economic purpose to be bigger than just profit."

So said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a speech to an Auckland business audience on Tuesday morning.

Ardern's speech was entitled Working together to build a new economy. The lofty goals she outlined are similar to those detailed in a paper I was sent later on Tuesday. Entitled Governance of economic transition, the paper paints a dystopian picture of where the world is heading arguing the ways energy, transport, food and housing are produced and consumed must be transformed via some sort of global Marshall Plan.

The paper was written by Finland's BIOS Research Unit. It's a scientific background document on transforming economies to support work on the United Nations Global Sustainable Development Report 2019.

The paper argues new economic thinking is required for a changing world that's facing challenges from climate change and a move away from fossil fuel driven energy supply.

"In addition to rapid climate change, biodiversity loss, and other environmental hazards, societies are witnessing rising inequality, rising unemployment, slow economic growth, rising debt levels, and governments without workable tools for managing their economies. Central banks in the US and the Eurozone have resorted to unconventional measures such as negative interest rates and buying up significant amounts of public debt. This has relieved some economic pressure, but many commentators are worried about what can be done after these extraordinary measures are exhausted and the next economic crisis hits," the paper says.

"It can be safely said that no widely applicable economic models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era. Here we highlight underutilized tenets of existing economic-theoretical thinking that can assist governments in channelling economies toward activity that causes a radically lighter burden on natural ecosystems and simultaneously ensures more equal opportunities for good human life. Our focus is on the transition period, the next few decades."

'An era of turmoil & profound change'

The paper begins by saying the era of cheap energy is ending. This means for the first time in human history economies are moving to energy sources that are less energy efficient. Production of usable energy will require more, rather than less, effort to power human activity. At the same time sink costs are rising with economies having used up the capacity of ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use. Climate change is named as the most pronounced sink cost.

"What will happen during the oncoming years and decades when we enter the era of energy transition, combined with emission cuts, and start to witness more severe effects of climate change? This is the big question."

The paper notes that whilst economists highlight carbon pricing as a policy tool for tackling climate change, scientists and environmental research groups push for more profound political engagement and proactive governance of economic transition. This means something akin to a global Marshall Plan.

Living in the past

The paper goes on to argue that today's key economic theories, approaches and models were developed during an era of "energetic and material abundance." These theories were only challenged temporarily during the oil crises of the 1970s and 1990s, with no significant theoretical or political changes made.

"Thus, dominant economic theories as well as policy-related economic modelling rely on the presupposition of continued energetic and material growth. The theories and models anticipate only incremental changes in the existing economic order. Hence, they are inadequate for explaining the current turmoil."

Economies need to transform the ways energy, transport, food and housing are both produced and consumed. The aim of doing this should be creating production and consumption that provides decent opportunities for a good life while reducing the burden on natural ecosystems, the paper argues.

On energy the entire infrastructure must be transformed with the energy return on investment decreasing across the spectrum.

"Unconventional oils, nuclear and renewables return less energy in generation than conventional oils, whose production has peaked, and societies need to abandon fossil fuels because of their impact on the climate."

Furthermore the paper argues that because renewables have a lower return on investment and different technical requirements such as a need to build energy storage facilities, meeting current or growing levels of energy needs with low-carbon solutions will be difficult, or even impossible.

"Thus, there is considerable pressure to lower total energy use. The development of energy production will also need to be closely linked with the development of the systems and practices of energy consumption, for example, the electrification and sharing of transport vehicles."

"In cities, walking and cycling should be emphasized and the remaining public or semi-public transport in and between cities should be largely electrified. This will require changes in city planning for example, how homes and workplaces are connected to each other and how convenient biking is, in vehicle production, in transport infrastructure such as railways, roads and charging stations, and in energy production and storage," the paper says.

"In addition international freight transport and aviation cannot continue to grow at current rates, because of the need to cut emissions and the lack of low-carbon alternatives to current technologies."

'International food trade should return to being a key part of food security rather than serving as a commodity market'

In terms of food the paper points out both wealthy and poor countries face major environmental challenges with food production. It argues countries need to reach a high level of food self-sufficiency, with international food trade returning to being a key part of food security rather than serving as a commodity market.

"With regard to both production and consumption practices, dairy and meat should make way for largely plant-based diets."

On housing, the paper argues the construction sector needs to move away from concrete and steel, given their energy intensive nature and significant contributions to climate emissions and other types of waste.

"Long-lasting wood buildings, on the contrary, can provide carbon storage. A significant shift towards using wood in construction would require changes in the entire production network, starting from forestry, in which construction uses compete for example with paper and energy uses. In addition to manufacturing, cooling and heating are the most significant drivers of lifetime emissions from housing."

'State guided transition to sustainability'

The paper goes on to argue that strong political governance is needed to accomplish these key transitions because market-based action won't suffice.

"There must be a comprehensive vision and closely coordinated plans."

Whilst some politicians and economists seek global carbon pricing, this would be unlikely to guide economic activity in the right direction quickly and broadly in the areas of energy, transport, food and housing, the paper argues. This is because as a policy tool carbon pricing lacks the crucial element of coordinating a diverse group of economic actors towards a common goal.

Another challenge perceived for state guided transition to sustainability is the target of a balanced budget.

"This means, on the one hand, that states should avoid spending to avoid running budget deficits, and on the other hand, that they should avoid regulation that negatively affects existing private enterprise and consequently tax revenues. Thus, states have not been keen to invest in sustainability transformation or limit resource-intensive economic activity," the paper says.

The Chinese example

Rather than looking at the world through a "neoclassical school" lens, the paper offers the alternative of a "post-Keynesian school" lens. It argues here that markets don't lead to socially and ecologically desirable outcomes on their own, needing active political guidance. From this perspective collective action, at least partly organised through the state, should be guided by "social goals and material boundary conditions" rather than by the need to secure public funds.

"Developments in China serve as a reminder that economic theories other than neoclassical ones are already effective in the world. In China, economic transitions have not been held back by the ideas of minimum state intervention or a balanced budget. Past transitions have, however, been ecologically unsustainable in many ways. Beyond Post-Keynesian theory, there can be a variety of economic theories that support rapid materially and ecologically beneficial transitions. The key theoretical requirement is that they must enable politics to acknowledge transformational social goals and the material boundaries of economic activity."

The authors acknowledge that it's difficult to predict the overall outcome from massive changes they're advocating for. 

"But generally the direction would be toward 'a Keynesian world with planetary boundaries': unique, autonomous economies and societies engaging in regulated international trade for specific reasons, such as food security, rather than for the sake of free trade as a principle. Individuals, organizations, and nations would approach the economy as a tool to enable a good life rather than as an end in itself."

"Economic activity will gain meaning not by achieving economic growth but by rebuilding infrastructure and practices toward a post-fossil fuel world with a radically smaller burden on natural ecosystems. In rich countries, citizens would have less purchasing power than now, but it would be distributed more equally. Citizens in all countries would have access to meaningful jobs and they could trust that a desirable future is being constructed on the collective level," the paper says.

'Only states can do it'

The authors acknowledge proactive state-led economic governance oriented toward self-sustained, low emission production and consumption runs contrary to the existing dominant world political order organized around international free trade. Thus key international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, would have to be reconfigured.

"Climate change and other environmental changes threaten livelihoods across the planet and thus give cause for mass migration. It is in the interest of all countries to maintain local opportunities for a good life. Because different countries and areas have different path-dependencies and goals, there is no socio-technical solution that fits all."

"One especially important constraint for rich countries is that dramatic reductions in emissions at current high levels of consumption are very challenging, if not impossible. Some developing countries, in contrast, can make significant improvements in their people’s wellbeing with new investments in low-carbon solutions. These developing countries do not need to begin by dismantling the fossil-fuelled infrastructure that has provided a range of low-cost production and consumption opportunities in rich countries for decades. Shifting climate zones towards the Earth’s North and South Poles ads another imperative for learning: for example, food producers in northern Europe have a lot to learn from their southern colleagues," the paper says.

"In view of the challenges encountered today in implementing meaningful international agreements, the most likely option for initiating transitions to sustainability would be for a group of progressive states to take the lead. This would require economic thinking that enables large public investment programs on the one hand and strong regulation and environmental caps on the other. In the modern global economy, states are the only actors that have the legitimacy and capacity to fund and organize large-scale transitions."

By including Ardern's quote at the top of this article I'm not suggesting her government plans to follow the path outlined by the BIOS Research Unit. But if its wish for "a group of progressive states to take the lead" came to fruition, where might New Zealand stand?

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"But generally the direction would be toward 'a Keynesian world with planetary boundaries': unique, autonomous economies and societies engaging in regulated international trade for specific reasons, such as food security, rather than for the sake of free trade as a principle. Individuals, organizations, and nations would approach the economy as a tool to enable a good life rather than as an end in itself."

And that requires a shift in our dominant ethical framework.

Not at all, this is continuation of the dominant ethical framework.

There have never been a shortage of self serving politicians wanting to feather there own nests "for the good of us all". It would be a wonder if this sort of approach were not adopted by many great leaders. How do you think the Chinese government came to be run by and for multi-millionaires, all of whom are "working selflessly for the good of the people"?

Cynical Politics 101 - find a good cause and exploit it ruthlessly.

Sorry, I don't understand what you think the dominant ethical framework is?

Total self-interest is the dominant ethical framework within political leadership. The proposed approach would be a great noble cause to exploit for their personal gain.

Self-interest isn't an ethical framework - indeed none of the three fundamental ethical frameworks promote or emphasize self-interest. I think you are confusing ethics with capitalism, as per Adam's Smith's oft quoted:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

Not sure whether you think social and economic transformation is a "noble cause" (in the cynical sense, I assume). It's more just the way of the world - nothing ever stays the same and I think the authors of the paper are genuine in their concern to seek improved outcomes for the planet, and hence humans within it.

And as reported elsewhere:

Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources.

Kate, on my read of the report saying 'We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources' is wrong. It's more the authors are arguing we need to transition with tough decisions and leadership required.

Can't argue that this "we need to transition with tough decisions and leadership required" is needed. but too many vested interests with money and power will sink any effort short of a dictatorship to try that. And a dictatorship will likely side with the money and power , so not much hope there. Perhaps JAs approach is the best?

They'll even stop some dictatorships under the guise of finding WMDs or chemical weapons.

To my mind, this lady is a standout in terms of some of the reset requirements;

I've yet to read the whole paper - will do so now.

Just read it, Gareth.

To a degree you're right - that statement doesn't come from the paper. But they do speak of "current turmoil" (p. 2) with respect to the present day situation, and point out that the "mass migration" (p. 5) that we are witnessing can be explained in terms of income disruption caused by climate and corresponding environmental changes.

So I think if your concern is with the statement about a "rapidly different global economy", I think they allude to that, and I also think the authors are talking about the unsustainable exploitation of resources as well.

Most importantly, it is their opinion that;

It can be safely said that no widely applicable economic models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era


Both a priori arguments [carbon pricing/market-based action and balanced budget requirements of states] depend on a particular kind of economic theory, namely the neoclassical school [and] if we switch to another theoretical lens... these arguments lose their effect


And on page 5 they state the "dominant world political order, which has been organized around international free trade... runs contrary [to] proactive state-led economic governance toward self-sustained, low-emission production and consumption".

All very interesting but also all very high level.

To me there has to be a kind of planned unwind [of some very powerful players in the global world order] as well as a proactive transition toward a low carbon, more fair and equitable future - the latter being what they addressed, not the former).

And as an aside, I think Jacinda Ardern's statement that you quote:

"It is time to retool our economy to make it work within the limits of our environment, shape it to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of all our people, and for our economic purpose to be bigger than just profit."

Is a really interesting one and very pertinent to the argument being made by the authors.

For example, if this government decided that our economic purpose should not be all about profit, then they could easily lead the way by not requiring profit from their many SOEs. And they could use the author's advice in this article that;

The state can always spend and invest in its own currency

But of course, this coalition (for this term anyway) have gone down the neoclassical economic theory route of the balanced budget requirement.

Yes Kate, it's going to be fascinating to see how much real change we see from this government. The signs are mixed so far.

Agree. I do think there is some good thinking going on.

I disagree. Capitalism has had far-reaching effects in significantly improving lives of billions of people around the world. Human beings by nature are self-interested creatures and when efforts are channeled in the right way, there is little that cannot be achieved. Maybe we just need to redefine our incentives and interests for capitalism to work us out of this mess.

We need to measure success using quality of economic results (knowledge, innovation, well-being) instead of the usual consumption-based metrics.

Well no, after all capitalism's raisson d'etre can be explained within it's very name - capital and the accumulation thereof, as much as you can. Once you understand that you get see why it is that capitalism won't last through this change. That does not mean that because you don't have capitalism you must have communism. Hopefully it will set people free to be more thoughtful. Definitely mindfulness will have a large part to play.

I get your point although I don't think wealth is the only form of capital. As I said, quality measures such as knowledge capital should count for more in economic success if things are to be changed.
For all this to happen, we need to put the brightest minds into it and seriously consider a society beyond material gains.

Yes, you are absolutely right, but it isn't capitalism. Don't be afraid to let go of it, just because some nonce will then call you names.

Would you not need some sort of measure around sustainability - i.e. well-being over time, not just now - within those measures, for it to be addressing some of the current issues with essentially pulling everything forward from the future.

We are in an economic vacuum in New Zealand. Government doesn't issue a directive as they believe the market should provide. The market doesn't invest in new tech / new development as there is no business case.
In short, nothing gets done, and we get stuck with the status quo until the oceans boil.

I suggest that the increases of our knowledge and the benefits of oil have more to do with an increased standard of living.

I suggest that oil has enabled more people to be created and allowed more of them to have the time to use their minds

But if its wish for "a group of progressive states to take the lead" came to fruition, where might New Zealand stand? Hah, we would still be sleeping!


To all those who lost their lives during WW1 and WW2 - your life, the war you won and the losses you suffered were all in vain. I hang my head in shame as the communists, nazism and fascists take over the world and poverty and suffering once again rises to levels unseen to the modern generations as this evil force that circles the world perpetuates its insanity over the human right to freedom and liberty.

The modern day journalist blames all sorts of things, anything, other than political cycles of strangling freedom and liberty!
What is it that rabid left-wingers have against freedom and liberty.
Left-wingers supported Nazism and the holocaust.
Left-wingers supported the deaths of 50 million Chinese by Chairman Mao.
Shall I go on about all the other things left-wingers support and the destruction they have caused?


? Nazism is about as far, far right wing as you can get?

FYI The Nazi party (National Socialist German Workers' Party), which lends its name to Nazism, emerged as a revival of the pre-WWI German Workers' Party with an anti-big business, anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist rhetoric. Notice the word "socialist" in its name.
The Nazi party changed its agenda to gain the support of industrial entities for greater power grab during the Great Depression but the initial popularity came from out-of-work labour force believing in its socialist agenda.

Folks, this is an article about a paper on the global economy and perceived problems with it. It proposes solutions to these issues. Please feel free to debate the paper, the global economy, and what's right or wrong with it. But let's step back from discussing Nazis and ranting. Thanks.

But, but, but, the failure of representative democracy in the West is the BIG topic. When the elite bureaucracy mess up and are insulated from the effects of their stupid actions and ideas, then you get a Trump, a Putin, an Erdogan, the list goes on, from Zimbabwe and South Africa to Venezuala and Hungary and Poland. Not to mention Jews being fearful of attack in Britain and France. I would add the Winston Peters / Shane Jones government is part of that trend, that Ardern and the Greens are just their puppets.

Roger, the perceived failure of representative democracy in the West is of course a legitimate topic. I'm just trying to discourage the type of drive-by smear above from notaneconomist that adds no value.

Having grown up in socialist Britain in the sixties and seventies, I have a prejudice against socialist doctrine, so It didn't seem offensive to me. The point being that while the problems the socialists seek to remedy are often, but not always, perfectly real, the outcome of their imposed solutions is usually, but not always, the opposite of what they say. Thus the socialist EU pushes southern Europe back 30 years rather than take the blame for their own stupidity and the tolerant peoples of Europe are forced to take in criminals from other countries, when they have quite enough of their own. The problem is the socialist model usually emphasises control over choice, with inevitable consequences. Their enticing words lead to a cruel result.


I really would prefer not to dignify your post by commenting on it,but much as I dislike both Peters and his sidekick Jones,to bracket them with Putin,Erdogan and others is not just idiotic,but verging on the insane.

Yes, but is it? Shane Jones is swanning about spending billions on personal vanity projects, with no transparency or apparent process. The Greens abandon their principles to stay in power. They arbitrarily set out to destroy a major industry, oil and gas, without any process or accountability. Looks like the random exercise of power as they see fit. The impression is that Peters formed the government of his choosing on the basis of his own pleasure, the national interest not being part of the discussion, except for a bit of window dressing for us lot.

While the way it is done may be questionable, I like the fact that there is a pot of money being spent in NOT Auckland! some of the other, majority of taxpayers may reap a little benefit.

But it wasn't socialist, was it, when it mattered? Fascism's main PoD is that it is very racist to the point of persecution, economically it could be anything left or right, but because of the persecution aspect picks winners and losers thus making a real space for the corporations etc,so no surprises there where that ended up.

At the time, in the early years, it was widely regarded as a miracle. Autobahns, high standard workers housing and all sorts of nice stuff. All with borrowed money of course, but the intention was always to steal the money to pay for it.

Eh, seems more like you should consider changing the radio dial off Leighton.

Far bloody out, what article did you just read??

Left wingers supported Augusto Pin....... oh wait, nope they didn't support that either.
You really have a bee in your bonnet, so much so that you make stuff up. The few people I knew who actually fought would be horrified to discover that what they fought for, if indeed what is happening today has one iota of relevance to what they fought for, the rise of the rentier class and the loss of "Jack is as good as his master", that the young today are looking squarely at never owning their own home, being a few of things. They were a lot more socialist than you give them credit for.

Notaneconomist - WW1 and WW2 were fights over who got access to the resources of a finite planet. They were indulged in by a species which was already in overshoot - they even fought using draw-down.

But you also distort history, to the point of nonsense. Left wingers (not that they are any more correct in resource terms) were in Spain, voluntarily, fighting Fascism while the Right-wing elite stood silent. Try reading Hemingway, Shaw, or Steinbeck.

This is - as Leonard Cohen so perfectly put it - 'neither left nor right', it's about all of us. It's about planetary limits.

I appreciate how it must be to get on in life and have your assumptions challenged, but false assumptions have a habit of being uncovered....

Actually, what they fought for was what every soldier in the thick of it all fought for, their lives and the lives of their mates around them.

Interesting, UN talked about the China model in their report.

That will potentially stimulate more 'wars' between the US and China.

Because this difference in the so-called economic model is rooted fundamentally from the difference in ideology.

Just one war between the USA and Russia would kill 95-100% of the world population. The cure might be considerably worse than the disease.

There's a lot of this group-speak going on. Yeah, sure, we've got a few issues. When haven't we. It's just that today our (that's the west) current models are coming a bit un-stuck. These things do from time to time. We've removed leadership. We do not respect it, in fact in some cases we damn well hate it. Then we blame our leaders for not doing their job. This is not ideal. Democracy is in trouble. Has been for a while, but very clearly so today. Today we run democracy with bullies. Good news is that you can vote them out next time. Good news is also that you live in a country that does things like this. Most countries don't.
Problem is that a) democracy has split into so many pieces, it's hard to get a majority on anything and b) the left and the right are headed in opposite directions thereby opening up the gaps we can all see appearing. Irony is, that we've still got the best systems and the best people, even though we are starting to hate each other. We still have the most & best opportunities to achieve & create the best products and experiences the planet has ever seen. Someone said it above, it's a great time to be alive. What we could all do with is a little more appreciation or gratitude for the huge amount of choice & choices that we all have (by we all I mean only the 1 billion of us that actually have these things, not the 6.5 billion that don't) rather than grump away forever about all the stuff we don't have. Just a thought.

Exactly, I suspect most of the readers and commenters are actually in the top 1% globally by income:


I am saddened and worry about the future of this country when I read the vitriol arising from these comments. What you have here is a religious war. Capitalism is not proven to be the best creator of wealth. It may be the quickest, it may be the least corrupt, but in the long term, it results in the destruction of global resources, and the impoverishment of human society. It works for a few individuals in the short term, but never for society as a whole. Communism is no better, the state replaces the individual, and it’s still leads to impoverishment of global resources and society. What is being proposed here is something more.

Let’s recognise that there is a problem here. Firms only survive by paying slave level wages, and but not investing in the future. By socialising costs, and privatising profits. Just because something can not be bought or sold, or is difficult to price doesn’t mean it is valueless. It just means our systems of value measurement are broken.

Accountants and economists, stop thinking dollars and cents represent reality. Our children are impoverished and have fewer opportunities than those of a generation ago, and those of the previous generation and are opting out or killing themselves in droves. Our environment is degrading rapidly, and at an accelerating pace, with more and more people finding it difficult to live without being negatively impacted by some sort of environmental pollution. Our institutions are failing, and while we are wealthie4 than ever before in monetary terms, as a community we are more impoverished than ever before.

Stop blindly believing and following the neoclassical religion. Remove the scales from your eyes, and see the horror that’s developing around us

Sounds like a classic example of Cultural Marxism. Where are the links to support your contentions re children, suicide, environment and our collective impoverishment?


There are none so blind as those that will no see, none so deaf as those that will not hear. Rip off the scales on your eyes. Look around you in New Zealand.

Visit south auckland to see impoverishment, and the depths to which it has grown. Have you being living in a pit in respect of teen suicides, and especially male suicides. Why do you think we have a drug crisis, There is nothing left for our children to do. School leavers have less opportunity that when people left school a generation ago. We were given a fair go, Now we expect our children to work for nothing and call it internship. What rubbish. Our rivers ran clean a generation ago. Now look at them. Brown scum filled drains.

Just open your eyes. Get out of your Remuera tractor and go and see real people. The homeless, the destitute.

I don’t need links.

I have my eyes.

Use yours.

Well put. But grim.
Where has this country gone? The homelessness in central Auckland is horrific....
I recall being shocked by New York's homelessness when I went there as a 17 year old in 1988. Now, Auckland's and New York's positions on homelessness are reversed.
A disgrace.

Where has the country got sold long we are left a society in crisis. I think our grandparents would be horrified.

There is no depression in New Zealand
There are no sheep on our farms
There is no depression in New Zealand
We can all keep perfectly calm...

Blam Blam Blam, 1981

Our grandparents sung about it.

oh boohoo. I grew up in a place like that, kept my nose clean and now I'm... well I think I barely qualify as lower middle class, but still., I'm not in and out of prison gambling and smoking synthetics in a dodgy suburb.

Do you really think if only the government did something these people would become cardiac surgeons and nuclear physicists? No. They're not bright people.

Instead of scheming of ways to throw other peoples money into the black hole of uplifting people with the IQ of koko the gorilla, focus on more practical matters. Like legal reform so you can defend your loved ones from degeneracy - by deadly force, if necessary. Or welfare reform so we're not subsidising their breeding.

ex-expat - you are kidding, right?

One example of a nation extracting another's resources, leaving a mess, then another using the mess as a concentration-camp. But I suspect we could speend all day putting stuff in front of you - and notaneconomist who, if I have it right, benefited from that extraction - but you'd twist, weave and duck away. I'm long enough in the tooth to know that applying a label (left-wing, marxism) is a precursor to rejection, but has nothing to do with correct/incorrect. That requires dispassionate appraisal.

So many wrong statements in the above, all feelz without recourse to data that shows that in almost every respect the world is getting better not worse. The good old days weren't. Your affliction is spiritual and imagined end-of-the-world irrationality and hankering for some sort of domineering autocratic govt. It's pretty damned dark.

There is no shortage of resources in the world, energy is cheap and getting cheaper and with cheap energy almost all other resources get cheaper or more readily available as well. We are on the cusp of a great revolution in energy with PV now undercutting all other forms of energy in sunny countries and EV's getting close to economic superiority to fuel burning cars. And some great developments in safe cheap fission energy (modular and molten salt reactors) are only a decade or two away as well - enough accessible fissiles on earth to keep our civilisation going for a Billion years.

Wages are going up in real terms across the spectrum people are wealthier, sure we are being squeezed by excessive regulatory burden created by govts over last 20 years into overly expensive housing (making us poorer) as cost of everything else has diminished. But that could be quickly fixed if voters demanded it (we aren't so can't be too bad). With transport revolutions likely in next 10-20 years (autonomous cars, delivery robots and air taxis) the need to live in dense urban environments will diminish and houses will get cheaper again - even if govt refuses to fix the regulatory burden in the meantime.

It is rubbish that children are impoverished and have fewer opportunities - there are less in real poverty and they are on average richer and have more than ever before, travel is cheap, education freely available, near full employment, wonderfully accessible information that can lead them to all sorts of interesting places, careers and choices without limitations of distance and isolation that used to exist. They have access to peer groups outside of school to relieve social pressures too.

And data shows that the environment is getting steadily better protected and cleaner (eg rivers), despite your beliefs to the contrary. The big difference is that we measure and monitor now so we know what is happening, whereas in past we all lived in blissful ignorance of the bad stuff.

We spend vast amounts on luxuries and entertainment that could be redirected to essentials if we needed to, hugely over-expensive cars on road for ostentatious fashion reasons, frequent overseas travel, and other wasteful accoutrements that we don't need. So things are obviously pretty good.

Capitalism is absolutely proven best, you can't provide any example of a better model, or even an outline for something that could be better given the constraints of randomly occurring talent, ideas and fundamental human motivations. It fantastic in that it gives maximum opportunity and reward to industrious individuals to make things better/cheaper, it has lifted our tech-base, standard of living, luxury, free time, self-determination and life expectancy incredibly in the last 200 years. The decentralisation of power/control it creates along with the ability to vote and balancing power of internationally mobile businesses/corporations helps to limit the despotism that govts otherwise inevitably slide towards when they gain too much centralised power and control. It is that despotism/centralised control which is the greatest extant threat to the world, and which the voices of the left seem bizarrely to want to have another go-around with even after the horrors of the mid-20th Century. That leftist push for greater political control of everything is the only real threat to the world at the moment.

Agreed. The must-read here is Factfulness (Rosling).

It's a pleasure to read: for once not being hectored by some bloke wearing a hairshirt and bearing a sandwich-board with 'The End Is Nigh' scrawled thereon....

Slavery or One-World-Government

Sounds not cool to me

slavery or one world government only because these are the options we present ourselves. we have left and right one thinks they know how to run your life and one knows a business man who can run your life.

No one ever thinks people can run their own lives and if given the choice they may just pull back from the current death cult of economic growth.

Give people real money and then expose them to the real costs of their actions in that way individuals can make choices based on real costs.

At the moment we just have phone money based on resources we think our children will have to buy and sell garbage to each other. We are just eating the future

So THATS why so many Chinese immigrants have been arriving here, an advance phalanx for the future of Global Socialism!

No system will ever be perfect. But for me the Scandanavian system is the best in terms of balancing capitalism with social equity and environmental concerns.

Um, partly. Norway pumps it's one-off oil, turns that into digital '1's and '0's, which it puts into the European sharemarket. Can you tell me what that sharemarket is worth without energy? They'd have been much better off keeping the oil, for careful home use....

Why do I get the impression that this plan will cost me big time?

In rich countries, citizens would have less purchasing power than now, but
it would be distributed more equally. Citizens in all countries would have access to meaningful jobs and
they could trust that a desirable future is being constructed on the collective level.

Big thumbs down from me!

ZS - it's not all about you. Sorry if nobody told you.

I bet back in the days of the economic and resource, collapse , and resulting migration/ conflicts of past civilizations around the world, many also had great vision of how to avoid... not much different if not the same to morden concepts like this.
We have this idealist concept at each point thru the ages that we are at our peak of knowledge and sensibility.. and that has not changed.
Nothing has changed other the the efficiency at which we can consume resources , use energy sources beyond horse and man, kill each other... AND not to be able to organise jointly in such a manner to as to avoid these events Regardless who or how many stand up , try to implement these solutions.
I have always had great admiration for those who recognize, such upcoming problems, and even more for those who genuinely try to implement then , yet alway fail due to the majority that remain self serving.
The other issue the signs are recognised very early, solutions put forward way too late, after the non return domino effect is taking place, resulting in isolated actions ...
Our issues today are not national as was the case in Sth America, middle east, Africa over the last several 1000 yrs.. That alone makes an even greater threat to any solution or action , assuming pre domino effect working.
Realy think a handful of counties around the world , like NZ will have enough influence while major economies have people (Im not using the term leaders) in charge like Putin, trump. And others totally preoccupied trying to sort out local issues like Britain, Australia, Korea, most of the african middle east countries.
Love the ideology, but the practicability , one has to be naive to believe at this point in history of man kind we are anymore wiser and actually implement this time.

I don't notice any mention of population in that entire paper, which is the crux of the matter.

They state: "One especially important constraint for rich countries is that dramatic reductions in emissions at current high levels of consumption are very challenging,"

Not true in the slightest. Just about every rich country in the world has reproductive rates below replacement. If allowed to occur, that could cause dramatic reductions in population in a very short time, with resulting massive improvements in environmental impact.
For instance the population of Japan is projected to fall from 130 million now to around 83 million by the end of the century, and all we hear is economists bleating.

Good observation Doris. Western Europe, Japan and the Anglosphere solved the population problem and if left alone would have solved a lot more problems too. I don' think this "research" is being honest with us about its agenda.

The main problem is that there are too many people who identify with groups that have historical grievances.. Only about 5% of the global population are suitable candidates for making this work and I'm not sure that is enough.

I tend to agree with you Zachary, the problem is already solved and the west just needs to stop importing the problem from developing nations. Japan may have nearly three lost decades of 'growth' but the people have high living standards and the nation has a trade surplus. All the growth the west needs is ready and willing to be exploited in developing nations and with some adjustments to cleaner/renewable energy sources it could be sustainable.
Can't get around the fact that there are too many desperately poor people in the third world for everyone on the planet to live at western standards.

I think these people have things backwards. What the developing world needs is globalisation. People from the first world should see the developing world as a viable option to emigrate to. South Africa was supposed to be the beginning of this, the so called "rainbow nation". They should be open to migration and diversity as we are.

If Western folk knew that it was safe to emigrate to South Africa and other places, that property and human rights would be respected and that you could buy land, businesses and be able to move money in and out with ease then these countries would really start to develop.

At the moment the migration is mostly one way although quite a few people migrate from other parts of Africa to South Africa. What they need is reasonably wealthy and educated people feeling it is safe to migrate there. Currently we have no confidence at all that our rights will be respected in vast areas of the planet.

The Chinese model ... Perhaps we should read the little red book again or re-evaluate Stalin. Market-driven economies have their issues but central planning has been a disaster. The article is ideologically driven tosh. Transforming from fossil to electric will be a slow but effective process. No problems and no need for major disruption. The megacity model favoured by the one world elite would be a dystopian nightmare. Fritz Lang got it spot on.

There is more to it than transforming from 'fossil to electric'.

That is the usual first-world mind-progression though - Oh, i'll just adapt to driving an electric car and go right on growing and consuming.

Unfortunately, the problems are bigger than that trite wee sound-byte, they're collectively known as The Limits to Growth. No political stance can alter them, nor can any way of transacting between ourselves. The Limits have to be addressed, or we (and a lot of other species) are dead. Lord Martin Rees recons we have a 50/50 chance of seeing-in 2100. On present trajectory, he's being optimistic:

My glass is half full. Yours seems empty. Cheer up, we've coped with the Mongol hordes, the Black Death, depressions galore, not to mention two rather nasty 20th century wars.

If it's half full, you've got one doubling-time left. How fast you drinking, 3% more a year? Gives you 24 years to the dregs. Always beware the exponential function.