Growth versus sustainability

by Judith Curry

Is economic growth sustainable?  Is it desirable?

Earth Island Journal presents two different perspectives on the issue of growth versus sustainability:

John DeGraaf

John DeGraaf is author of the book Affluenza and What’s the economy for anyway?  Excerpts from his essay:

The Global Footprint Network finds that we already use far more resources and produce more waste than is sustainable, if by “sustainable” we mean replicable for any meaningful amount of time. Were every country to suddenly adopt the US lifestyle, we’d need four more planets.

Economic growth increases happiness when countries are poor, but these benefits level off as they grow beyond a modest level of comfort. The United States is the best example of this. Per capita income has tripled since the 1950s, but happiness levels have been flat or falling, according to yearly surveys conducted by Gallup.

Impoverished countries still need to grow; modest growth in the past five years, for example, increased happiness in Angola by 25 percent, according to the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report. But they must grow carefully, not as new consumer societies permeated by market values. And greater growth in rich countries is not only unsustainable but counterproductive. In the United States, doctors call stress from overwork “the new tobacco” while depression and loneliness are soaring.

Yet if we don’t grow, how can we prevent unemployment as productivity increases? Trading productivity for leisure instead of stuff will allow us to reduce unemployment, while giving everyone time for social connection and recreation. Limits on working hours would give us time to restore neighborhoods, grow some of our own food, de-stress, and engage in our own favorite artistic, athletic, and cultural activities.

Fifty years ago, in his “Great Society” speech, Lyndon Johnson warned that the values and beauty of our nation were being “buried by unbridled growth.” A Great Society, he said, would judge itself not by the quantity of its goods, but the quality of its goals. At a time when we are rich in stuff and poor in leisure and joy, when we are stretching the limits of our health and the limits of the planet, economic growth is a labor of Sisyphus.

Roger Pielke Jr

Excerpts from Roger Pielke Jr‘s essay:

But what does it actually mean to be against economic growth? I argue that to be anti-growth actually implies keeping poor people poor.

Economic growth is simply a metric that reflects the accumulation of wealth over time, usually based on universalized US dollars. Economists define economic growth in three parts: (a) growth in labor, which refers to an increase in the number of people working; (b) growth in capital, which refers to increases in the availability of things that can be used by labor in the process of producing goods (like food) and services (like surgery); and (c) increasing productivity, which can be thought of as improvements in the efficiency with which we turn labor and capital into goods and services.

When we break down the idea of anti-growth into its component parts, we very quickly see that “anti-growth” is not a particularly coherent concept. Sustainable growth clearly is not anti-growth.

In the near future, economic growth and its consequences for the planet will be dominated by today’s poor countries. The OECD estimates that between 2013 and 2030 82 percent of economic growth will occur in what are today considered to be the “poor” parts of the world. Similarly, in January BP released its 2014 “Energy Outlook to 2035,” which projects that 95 percent of growth in energy consumption worldwide to 2035 will occur in poorer countries.

The reality is that to be anti-growth today is actually to be anti-growth with respect to poor countries. The fact that very few, if any, anti-growth activists are openly demanding that poor countries remain poor tells us how powerful a force growth is in today’s global politics.

Ultimately, debates over growth tend to mask more fundamental debates about ideologies, values, and what kind of world we wish to see in the future. 

JC comments

I like that Earth Island has published both of these articles, I think they cover some broad scope on this topic.   I am sympathetic to elements from both essays.  I think there is merit in concepts such as ‘smart growth’, and that growth and affluence does not necessarily correspond to happiness once a certain baseline is achieved.  The need for economic growth in developing countries is obvious; resilience and thrivability might be better objectives than sustainability.  Overconsumption by some in the developed world does not seem to equate with happiness; rather it seems to be a way of ‘keeping score.’

Your thoughts?

279 responses to “Growth versus sustainability

  1. “Is economic growth sustainable? Is it desirable?”

    Yes and yes!

    • The concern Western academia’s global warming alarmists have for the whole world certainly sounds awesome. Such concern is however substantially diminished by their belief that the rest of humanity just doesn’t belong – that, humanity is a big mistake.

    • Who has said humanity is a mistake? Besides one or two crackpots?

    • Robert I Ellison

      Thousands of crackpots.

    • –e.g., crackpots like Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren…?

    • Where did Holdren or Ehrlich say humanity is a mistake? Link, please.

    • Now …. some would disagree with : “Were every country to suddenly adopt the US lifestyle, we’d need four more planets.” … such as – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/26/ecological-footprints-a-good-idea-gone-bad/
      We seem to be using only – 1/8 “Earth” –
      “… more than ¼ of the global land surface (excluding Antarctica) can be regarded as sufficiently suitable for crop cultivation .. twice the area that was actually in use for cultivation during 1994-96 according to FAO’s statistical data. ” – UN Food and Agriculture Organization GAEZ 2000 study
      … and decreasing –
      http://judithcurry.com/2013/01/05/peak-farmland/
      Well done Humans! :-)

    • @ David Appell

      “Who has said humanity is a mistake? Besides one or two crackpots?”

      Would it be Prince Phillip, who uses ‘In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation. ‘ as an applause line when addressing environmentalist gatherings?

      Or would it be the environmentalists who, like clockwork, respond with applause.

      How about the folks at worldpopulationbalance.org, who say “To become sustainable with Earth’s resources, what are our choices? Reducing overall consumption by 50% would do it for now. Or, reducing population by 3 to 4 billion would do it. It’s more likely that a combination of both – large declines in consumption and human numbers – will be necessary.”

      Or the experts at islandone.org, who provide this: ‘Bruce Sundquist has compiled a review of literature about the Earth’s carrying capacity. He believes that the maximum sustainable population of the Earth is about 1 billion people. It is determined by topsoil erosion and salination of irrigated land.’

      So wag stands corrected: we aren’t a total mistake. It’s just that we are currently around 6 billion in excess, a problem that can mostly be solved by drastically curtailing or eliminating ACO2.

    • David Attenborough (The David Suzuki of the UK) thinks humanity is a plague on Earth.

      It seems like a well accepted idea among Environmental/Green activists.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9815862/Humans-are-plague-on-Earth-Attenborough.html

    • Bill Mckibben says we’re a plague, Ingrid Newherk, (Animal Rights)
      calls us a blight …and there are others … Duke of Edinburgh
      doesn’t care for us. yer wonder why he had four children.
      http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_depopu23.htm

    • David Graber, a biologist and civil servant high up in the National Park Service, wrote that:

      “Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line–at about a billion years ago, maybe half that–we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth.
      It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

      Don’t know if counterculture eco-darling Stephanie Mills’s description of consumers as “debased human protoplasm” is readily available online.

      This sort of rhetoric is rampant in green intellectual writings. Go back to the guru E.F. Schumacher stuff and you can find some fairly hair-raising ideas, too. That’s without even going back to the original German theorists who formed part of the intellectual background of Naziism.

      In my opinion, much of this way of thinking stems more from a kind of aesthetic revulsion than true nihilism. The problem is when this type of Green death pornography leaches out into policy or direct action.

    • David Appell,

      We can start with these people.

      1. ”My three goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with its full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”
      David Foreman,
      co-founder of Earth First!
      ”A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”
      Ted Turner,
      Founder of CNN and major UN donor
      ”The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”
      Jeremy Rifkin,
      Greenhouse Crisis Foundation
      ”Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
      Paul Ehrlich,
      Professor of Population Studies,
      Author: “Population Bomb”, “Ecoscience”
      ”The big threat to the planet is people: there are too many, doing too well economically and burning too much oil.”
      Sir James Lovelock,
      BBC Interview
      ”We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination… So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts… Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
      Stephen Schneider,
      Stanford Professor of Climatology,
      Lead author of many IPCC reports
      ”Unless we announce disasters no one will listen.”
      Sir John Houghton,
      First chairman of the IPCC
      ”It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.”
      Paul Watson,
      Co-founder of Greenpeace
      ”Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.”
      David Brower,
      First Executive Director of the Sierra Club
      ”We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.”
      Timothy Wirth,
      President of the UN Foundation
      ”No matter if the science of global warming is all phony… climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
      Christine Stewart,
      former Canadian Minister of the Environment
      ”The only way to get our society to truly change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe.”
      Emeritus Professor Daniel Botkin
      ”Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
      Maurice Strong,
      Founder of the UN Environmental Program
      ”A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-Development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.”
      Paul Ehrlich,
      Professor of Population Studies,
      Author: “Population Bomb”, “Ecoscience”
      ”If I were reincarnated I would wish to return to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”
      Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh,
      husband of Queen Elizabeth II,
      Patron of the Patron of the World Wildlife Foundation
      ”The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization we have in the US. We have to stop these third World countries right where they are.”
      Michael Oppenheimer
      Environmental Defense Fund
      ”Global Sustainability requires the deliberate quest of poverty, reduced resource consumption and set levels of mortality control.”
      Professor Maurice King
      ”Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class – involving high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, appliances, air-conditioning, and suburban housing – are not sustainable.”
      Maurice Strong,
      Rio Earth Summit
      ”Complex technology of any sort is an assault on the human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.”
      Amory Lovins,
      Rocky Mountain Institute
      ”I suspect that eradicating small pox was wrong. it played an important part in balancing ecosystems.”
      John Davis,
      Editor of Earth First! Journal

    • Growth and increased standards of living are absolutely critical. The better off people are the fewer kids they tend to have. Please don’t believe me, look out of your window then fly to Cambodia or India.

  2. Much of US growth helps poor people who move here to “grow” out of poverty. IIRC, the middle quintiles are not actually “growing”. The lower quintiles are moving up.

    This is not to dismiss the growing income and wealth disparities in the US. IMHO, they cannot be sustained.

    • John de Graaf epitomizes the mental miasma of the Left: “IT CAN’T BE DONE. Period.” This is the belief that underlies everything the Left and the liberal Utopians believe and feel: a stunted logic spoon-fed to keep children who become too fearful to change their soiled diapers.

      And, it explains global warming alarmism, the Left’s anti-Americanism: their antipathy toward the idea of individual exceptionalism.

      The Left believes everything has been said; that every good idea has been had and patented. Every flavor has been tasted. Every song written, played and sung. There’s nothing new to be thought. It’s this belief that motivates their ill will toward everything that everyone else wants to do: China can’t have cars; Africa cannot be free; Capitalism can’t work; there are too many people in the world — economic growth cannot keep up — and, so many people simply must die and those that survive must be more miserable than preceding generations.

      The underlying beliefs of the Leftists is a confession of powerlessness, self-defeat and worthlessness and see how they insist on making the world pay for their poverty of spirit.

      It’s that kind of poverty that explains why the Left denies faith and hope and feels threatened by the successes of others. It’s why the Western academics of AGW global warming alarmist create models of a world comprised only of black carbon; models that even deny the Sun.

    • What a load of crap. Today my son, an exceptional product of inner-city public schools and burdened with liberal parents who never spanked him, matched at a teaching hospital that is consistently rated in the top three nationwide Eat that exceptional apple.

    • David Springer

      JCH – Is that the usual outcome or is your son the exception which proves the rule?

  3. Re: The Looney Dowser Paper, commenter knr @ The Bish’s says doing research on blog comments is delving into the ‘cat litter tray of knowledge’

    It has never seemed to me that Techno-Optimists vs Malthusian Doomsayers was even a sporting contest.
    ============

  4. Yes, and yes. More later.

  5. “I argue that to be anti-growth actually implies keeping poor people poor.” Pielke rings the bell of truth once again.

    • David L. Hagen

      Thus the effort of Democrat Greens to keep people poor and reduce using and prevent exporting natural gas – which they previously advocated as a “clean fuel”.
      The Democratic Civil War Over Energy
      Green demands to stop drilling for natural gas come at an awkward time for Obama and his party.

      greens now openly decry drilling, chiding Mr. Obama for his “support for hydraulic fracturing” and calling on him to keep “our nation’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground.” The letter was signed by Bill McKibben, the director of the anti-Keystone outfit 350.org, as well as directors of nearly every major green shop in the country—the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO and Earthjustice.

      I.e., this is a religious endeavor to stop using any “stored solar energy” (aka fossil fuels) regardless of the consequences.

    • David L. Hagen

      Bjorn Lomborg observed The Poor Need Cheap Fossil Fuels

      More than 1.2 billion people around the world have no access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook for 2012.. . .Over the last 30 years, China moved an estimated 680 million people out of poverty by giving them access to modern energy, mostly powered by coal. Yes, this has resulted in terrible air pollution and a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions. But it is a trade-off many developing countries would gratefully choose. As China becomes wealthier, it will most likely begin to cut its air pollution problem through regulation, just as the rich world did in the 20th century.

    • David L. Hagen

      Climate Noble Cause Corruption
      Matt Briggs addresses: Global Warming Hanger-On Says Ends Justify The Means

      . . .A progressive is an academic who looks upon a fallen world and would fix it by Theory, by preaching that the ends justify the means.
      There is no philosophy more evil than that.

      Meet Rod Lamberts, the “Deputy Director, Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University” and malevolent promulgator of evil. In an essay in The Conversation, . . .Lamberts said, “What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means.” Yes, comfortable. . . .

      Briggs links to George Keenan

      . . .Communism started as a theory from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and would be ruthlessly materialized by Vladimir Lenin and is disciples. What began as an idealistic yet implausible notion took on a life of its own. If the end was ideal, then the means to achieve it could be justifiably extreme. In effect, to achieve “good”, power was required to enforce it. . . .As time would pass, power would beget an insatiable thirst for more power. Soon, the original ideals of collectivist utopia were more deeply subordinated to the relentless pursuit and ruthless maintenance of power. . . .
      Vladamir Putin . . . his budding cult of personality reminiscent of classic Russian strongmen, this is a man who understands the nature of power. . . .Perhaps we ignore the simple math that is often before our very eyes. May we open our eyes to the appetites of men.

    • David L. Hagen

      PS Briggs link is to an article by Tod Worner at a Catholic Thinker discussing and citing George Keenan

    • Rod Lambert on ‘Ends justify the means.’
      ‘Flood the airways and apply tactics advertisers have successfully
      used for years.’

      This from the past. “Ends justify the means.’ (
      ‘ The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success
      unless one fundamental principle is born in mind, ‘said Joseph G,
      ‘it must conform to a few points and repeat them over and over.’

    • At what point will Pielke be rich enough to pay for clean, sustainable energy? Next year? 10 years from now? 50? When?

    • k scott denison

      David Appell (@davidappell) | March 22, 2014 at 12:35 am |
      At what point will Pielke be rich enough to pay for clean, sustainable energy? Next year? 10 years from now? 50? When?
      ______________________

      When will you?

  6. Economy is to commerce as climate is to weather.

    The economy grows in part to the extent that people are, as Milton Friedman aptly noted, “Free To Choose”. That is where prices are set by auction.

    It does not grow to the extent that (1) a single party rules (vice democracy), (2) people have group identity (vice individuals), and (3) people have duties to the state (vice the rights of liberty). Those three tenets define Marxism.

    P.S.
    Has anyone notice that the difference between a weatherman (meteorologist) and climatologist is that only the former is held responsible for his forecasts?

  7. lemiere jacques

    growth is the sum of individual lives such as population..
    It is very easy to say the world is overpopulated…and so what?

    Nobody decides let s grow on an economic point of view.
    whatever the decisions politicians will take in order to control growth..people will adapt…to do their best to have a wealthier life.

    But politicians loves the concept…hey guy, if you can be antigrowth i guess you can control gdp and avoid crisis….

    To controm gdp you must control everything, people and nature..preposterous….

  8. “I am sympathetic to elements from both essays. I think there is merit in concepts such as ‘smart growth’, and that growth and affluence does not necessarily correspond to happiness once a certain baseline is achieved.”

    I have similar views. Despite my global warming skepticism…though I don’t see any tension between the two….I’m a passionate environmentalist. I also detest the empty materialism that has come to define us as a culture. But I’ve grown much more cynical in the last few years in part because of the climate wars, concerning our ability to govern ourselves wisely.

    Hell, if we don’t blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons in the next 25 years, it will be blind luck.

    • David Wojick

      When exactly were we less materialistic? How many years ago — 40, 400, 4,000, 40,000 or 400,000?

    • Man that’s off the beam, Wojick, as usual. People were too busy just trying to find enough food to eat not long ago, than to worry about getting a flat screen TV, or a second, or a third.

      What was Bush’s advice after 9/11? Go shopping? Wake up and smell the bubble wrap.

    • pokerguy,

      I disagree. People in the stone age were just as materialistic as we are now. They’d spend days making a stone tool or find or trade something and defend it just as we collect and defend our possessions now.

    • Hey Peter,

      I think are being too literal minded Sure, acquisitiveness, and the desire for the trappings and symbols of success are universal human traits. But those trappings and symbols are culturally mediated. Some of the most basic of human drives after the physical needs like food and shelter have been met, are the need for a sense of belonging, and the need for a belief that life has meaning. Our current society does a very poor job of providing these things.

      When George Bush tells us that the best thing we can do after a national tragedy is to go out and shop, he’s saying something important about our society. And it’s not a good thing.

    • PG,

      We’ve managed not to for 70 years. What makes you think we are suddenly more at risk for nuclear aniilation?

  9. US poverty levels and folks on food stamps at record highs, economic growth anemic, the middle class being economically hammered, our young facing a dismal future with few opportunities.

    “Trading productivity for leisure instead of stuff will allow us to reduce unemployment, while giving everyone time for social connection and recreation. Limits on working hours would give us time to restore neighborhoods, grow some of our own food, de-stress, and engage in our own favorite artistic, athletic, and cultural activities.” LEFTIST DRIVEL.

    We need to grow, otherwise our future will continue to get ever bleaker.

    • It doesn’t make sense that with advances in technology people are still working as long as they did 100 years ago.

      The whole system is pegged. If the system tells you to work 8 hours a day 5 days a week then that’s what happens. It isn’t an economic reality by which a country will fall if it isn’t adhered, it’s simply a dogma.

    • An old figure from deep in the past, but I once read that self-employed people in the US.averaged 70 hours per week. Much of the world’s poor work at hard physical labour from dawn to dusk for barely enough to get by.
      =================

    • k scott denison

      lolwot | March 22, 2014 at 6:11 am |
      It doesn’t make sense that with advances in technology people are still working as long as they did 100 years ago.
      __________________________

      Why doesn’t this make sense to you? S/he who works harder and longer has always been more successful. Why would technological advances change this work ethic? Why would we suddenly become lazy as a species?

    • “S/he who works harder and longer has always been more successful”

      So where have all the hard working plowmen gone?

    • k scott denison

      They are still all around you lolwot. They’re the ones who are calling for economic growth and for people to work hard.

    • lolwot,

      > It doesn’t make sense that with advances in technology people are still working as long as they did 100 years ago.

      That groundless claim itself makes no sense. You can’t possibly know that everyone wants to sacrifice wealth for leisure now. How about you for instance – would *you* prefer to be poorer and have more free time ?

      > The whole system is pegged. If the system tells you to work 8 hours a day 5 days a week then that’s what happens.

      If significant numbers of people would prefer to work fewer hours, this would create a demand for such jobs. Employers that ignored this would place themselves at a competitive disadvantage relative to those that took heed of it.

      > It isn’t an economic reality by which a country will fall if it isn’t adhered, it’s simply a dogma.

      Yes, there is no need to work any given number of hours, it’s a question of how much wealth people prefer.

    • Doggone
      Observationally challenged
      Guilt ridden
      Manic … or …
      Arrogant

    • lolwot,

      Where do you get the numbers to support your claim?

      My grandfather and uncles worked far more than 8 hours a day mining coal. 6 days a week.

  10. Mark Brinkley

    Smart growth definition: lots of very thin people becoming rich enough to put on a little body weight and to look healthy and to breed sensibly.

    Dumb growth definition: lots of perfectly healthy people eating so much that they get grossly overweight and become sick.

    You pays your money, you takes your choice.

    • “Smart growth definition: lots of very thin people becoming rich enough to put on a little body weight and to look healthy and to breed sensibly.

      Dumb growth definition: lots of perfectly healthy people eating so much that they get grossly overweight and become sick.”

      There appears to be a need of definition of smart growth vs dumb growth.
      I don’t think smart growth has to do with politicians. For one, they aren’t getting smarter, and they have always been stupid creatures.
      So we shouldn’t equal smart growth with a geniuses like Stalin or Hitler.
      Next, we should not confuse large bureaucracies with something associated
      with concept of smart. Rather it’s more definitional of stupid.

      So it seems smart growth should aligned with idea of less global poverty and less totalitarian states. So countries like Cuba and N Korea could not exist in world of smart growth.
      In addition to continuing to lower global poverty, another thing we are doing
      to increasing the life expectancy. Longer life expectancy is also associated
      to higher living standards, but another element is improvement in medicine.

      Improvements in medicine and socialized medicine do not go together, it is largely US technological improvements in medicine which has largely driven such improvement, with rest society in the world being “free riders”
      to such advancement.

      So smart growth is more income growth with less people dying due
      general conditions of poverty, and healthier old age.

      Dumb growth is more pseudoscience and isms, and more totalitarian governments in general.

  11. History is full of forecasts that we are at the limit and beyond this is disaster. Every time, we break the limit and life gets better for more and more people.

    People who establish limits that are broken, time and time again, really don’t yet understand.

    • Jim Cripwell

      Herman, I agree. It was Herman Kahn who said “Nothing would be more surprising than that nothing surprising is going to happen”. Who knows what technology is going to produce in the future. When I look back and see what has happened in my lifetime, and project what may happen in the same time in the future, then I suspect it is foolish to give these sorts of forecasts.

    • Listen to the wise men above, HAP and JC.

      Say, a serf story … in the days when life for most was mostly
      brutish and short, a daily struggle for the next meal, probably
      gruel, the invention of inanimate power technologies, water
      wheels ‘n such brought benefits to some. In the 18th century,
      the big breakthrough was the development of the steam
      engine triggering the Industrial Revolution that changed
      living standards for the western world. It was the shift to
      stored fossil fuels that allowed the revolution to keep going.
      Economic growth became sustainable when industry began
      to rely on non-renewable power. )

      Strange ain’t it that renewables, while self replenishing, when
      they become exhausted are too slow in renewing to keep up
      with demand?

      And while fossil fuels are not infinite, they are abundant enough
      to allow an increase of both economic activity and population to
      the point where they generate sustainability without hitting that
      ever predicted Malthusian ceiling and to the point where the next
      technological breakthrough, that an affluent and innovative
      society makes possible is able to take place.

      Good on yer, ol’ King Coal!

    • Well writ, Beth.

      De Graaf somehow doesn’t sound like a serf, to me.

      More like an ivory tower academic elite with guilt pangs (or is it gas?) as he sips his $5 latte and contemplates the woes of the world.

      I like your synopsis better

      Your fellow serf, Max

    • Merci, Max fellow serf.)

  12. Some of the global warming alarmists say after hiatus or the global cooling or whatever then it will be global warming for sure. Doesn’t sound like much of a consensus anymore does it? But, it’s really hard to be precise when nature keeps reshuffling the deck.

    • There is no “hiatus,” just a slowdown of natural (not anthropogenic) factors as a little more heat goes into the ocean instead of the tiny sliver of the surface.

    • k scott denison

      As you seem to know the cause of the pause so well David, care to tell us when it will be over?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “There is no “hiatus,” just a slowdown of natural (not anthropogenic) factors as a little more heat goes into the ocean instead of the tiny sliver of the surface.”
      ——
      Yep.

    • Miraculous. Who prayed, anyway?
      ========

    • So many assumptions, so few details

    • k scott denison

      Same question for you Gates – when will the “natural factors” stop dominating and the surface temperatures start to rise again?

  13. The problem with the “smart growth” concept is that it is assumes that someone, i.e., the government, knows how best to balance growth and sustainability. It then assumes that the people in charge of implementing this “smart growth” program, i.e., government officials, are incorruptible and solely interested in the public good. I am skeptical.

  14. Economic growth need not imply more waste, diminishing of wild lands and waters, or ongoing emissions of GHEs or other pollutants; rather, the opposite. To sustain maximum human population, the globe can’t do it if the climate is so hobbled by external forcing as to decrease crop yields by 25% as recent studies indicate. To sustain maximum economic growth requires growing new industries of idea, not of nonrenewables; to exploit Moore’s Law, not corrupt lawmakers’ subsidies to fossil.

    • Bart R

      the globe can’t do it if the climate is so hobbled by external forcing as to decrease crop yields by 25% as recent studies indicate

      That set off my BS meter, Bart.

      Overall yield of major crop plants have increased by 2.4 times from 1970 to 2010, as population increased by 1.7 times, resulting in increased affluence, quality of life, average life expectancy at birth and reduced starvation rates.

      Over the same time period atmospheric CO2 increased by 20% and global average temperature increased by a few tenths of a degree.

      You can toss those “recent studies” in the garbage can where they belong, Bart – they are rubbish.

      Max

    • What the People’s need is a Glorious Five Year Plan to Modernization!

    • Jim S

      The “glorious 5-year plan” should include de Graaf’s suggestion: “We should share jobs and work less”, as was done in the old GDR, before it collapsed and was absorbed into West Germany.

      Three individuals held each job – one of whom was also an informer for the “Stasi” (state political police).

      All three together earned less than one worker in the West.

      Now that’s “Progress” with a capital “P”!

      Max

      PS Not only did three workers share one job (and one wage), ten families shared one telephone (to avoid unsustainable growth of communication).

    • There is already evidence that warming is counteracting the CO2-fertilization effect for some major crops:

      “Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming,” David B Lobell and Christopher B Field, Environ. Res. Lett. 2 (2007) 014002 (7pp)
      http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/2/1/014002

    • Nice find, apple. That confirms our suspicions that crop yields have actually been declining. Do you have anything else for us?

    • From Apple’s article:
      While these impacts are small relative to the technological yield gains over the same period, the results demonstrate already occurring negative impacts of climate trends on crop yields at the global scale.

      IOW, these impacts are insignificant, even if our study can be replicated, is statistically sound, etc. … none of which we know to be fact.
      Conclusion: Nothing to see here.

    • manacker | March 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm |

      You have got to get that thing checked. It appears it goes off whenever facts run contrary to your opinion. Maybe it’s just detecting your opinion?

      Or do you dispute David Appell (@davidappell) | March 22, 2014 at 12:38 am | ?

    • Bart,

      While recent “studies” might indicate that, real world agricultural data is not. The world keeps setting record crop outputs, and doing so on a continually decreasing amount of land.

      But you go on believing in studies that are little more than expensive computer gaming.

      PS – with more than half of the world’s food lost to spoilage, the opportunity is there to more than make up for any 25% decrease from climate issues.

    • timg56 | March 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm |

      ..said the grasshopper to the ant.

      As a ratio of food produced to number of mouths to feed, crop increases due intensive and destructive agriculture accompanied by quadruple like increases in input costs, do not impress one with their trend to satisfy future needs. And the fact that the system is inherently wasteful hardly makes your argument any stronger.

  15. David Wojick

    I predict this topic will be a study in confusion. How can it not be?

  16. “… in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
    A catalog of the opposite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

  17. Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. (Mencken)

    I do not begrudge Joe Sixpack his boat, snowmobile, and big-screen TV, and I am suspicious of the motivations of people who do.

  18. John de Graaf’s “we can’t grow on like this” essay is a good example of the “rich white man’s” guilt-driven obsession with affluence and growth. (The CAGW craze is another.)

    It is apparent to me that de Graaf is somewhat removed from real life out there.

    “We should share jobs and work less” sounds ominously like the motto under Communism (which failed) This was revealed, for example, when the East German economy collapsed at the end of the GDR. Each “job” was held by three “employees”, who were all three being paid less than one employee in the West.

    The essay by Roger Pielke Jr., with his breakdown of “anti-growthers” into Neo-Malthusians, Peak Earthers or Luddites, on the other hand, makes good sense. (We’ve seen all three here on Climate Etc.).

    The whole concept appears to be a symptom of decadency and group guilt among some ivory tower elitists in the developed world.

    A resident of Sudan or Bangladesh is less concerned about “too much growth” than he/she is about survival and improving his/her quality of life.

    World per capita GDP will continue to grow, especially for the poorest. World population will also continue to grow, albeit at a greatly reduced rate, particularly as the underdeveloped nations increase their quality of life.

    And this growth will be fueled to a large extent by the availability of low cost energy, as it was for us in the developed world over the past one and a half centuries

    We rich white folks (especially academics in their ivory towers) can cluck about this all we want to, but it will not change the fact that growth will continue.

    Max

  19. We can no more model (and control) the economy than we can model the climate. This is why, at the heart of the matter, views on AGW mirror the Libertarians vs. the Left dichotomy. It’s a fundamental and ontological split between two camps.

  20. Robert I Ellison

    ‘Fiery the Angels rose, & as they rose deep thunder roll’d
    Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc
    And Bostons Angel cried aloud as they flew thro’ the dark night.’

    America – A Prophecy, William Blake, 1793

    There are certainly ways to limit and reverse impacts of growth and development – something I have specialised in for decades. We do seem to have come a long way since the Rio summit in 1992.

    Principle 25

    Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

    http://www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-1annex1.htm

    The principles of sustainable development have since been perverted to philosophies of limits. It is the opposite of growth and development that are the sin qua non of peace and prosperity this century – the need for more available water, more food and much more energy is an iron necessity. More than this – only rich peoples can afford environmental conservation. Nor can economies be reasonably sub-divided between the west and the rest. The connections and dependencies are far too great. To a great degree Chinese production depends on American consumption – as an instance. There used to be a saying that America sneezes and the world catches a cold. Although this not as pronounced an imbalance as it used to be with evolving economic power centres globally – something that in fact increases global economic stability exponentially. A broadening of the wealth base brings resilience – both economically and with respect to natural disasters and environmental risks.

    Climate change – and catastrophic events – is central to promulgation of what essentially is an impulse to control based on overweening self importance and a sneering disdain for humanity.

    ‘“In short,” says Klein, “climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.”

    As such, global warming is our most wicked problem. The end of our world is heralded by ideologues with specific solutions already in mind: de-growth, rural living, low-energy consumption, and renewable energies that will supposedly harmonize us with Nature. The response from the Right was all-too predictable. If climate change “supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand,” as conservatives decided long ago, then climate change is either not happening or is not much to worry about…

    There is thus, in the fanaticism of the apocalypse, equal parts misanthropy and narcissism, self-loathing and self-aggrandizement. “Behind their lamentations,” Bruckner writes sardonically, “the catastrophists are bursting with self-importance.”
    http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/voices/michael-shellenberger-and-ted-nordhaus//the-great-progressive-reversal/

    There are no limits to the human imagination or technological capability. It is as simple as that. Progressives with their muddled economics, incoherent environmental ideas, psychopathology and politics of centralization are the enemies of humanity. They always have been – these impulses to control economies killed hundreds of millions of people last century. There is nothing to suggest that – if they got their unspecified way – things would be better this time around.

  21. Growth brings environmental improvement. Modern power stations are cleaner. Modern industries are less polluting. Modern agriculture produces more from less land and does it in a cleaner fashion. Most of the word is poor. Encouragnig it to become rich is the best way to clean up the environment.

    Economic growth is a measure of wealth creation. Wealth is only indirectly connected to the consumption of physical resources. Technological improvement lets us do more with less. Where once we had mainframes today we have cellphones that do more using less. Modern TVs are much better thinner and lighter than old ones. They do more using less. Modern communication systems are wireless. No need for copper wire. Carbon fibre replaces steel. A high tech economy consumes less physical resources than a low tech one.

    Opposing growth is a really idiotic thing to do.

    • ” Modern power stations are cleaner. Modern industries are less polluting”
      Possibly. We are exporting our pollution to the third world, especially China, as they could build industries with state of the art pollution control, but chose not to.
      The amount of pollution in China is staggering, yet, as they never had to do it the hard way, this is a political decision.

      I had a friend who got a grant to by an former-East German tank, a T-64. The tank had full NBC protection and so could be used as a mobile lab to take samples from former-East German waste sites. The planned economy of East Germany has some very non-ecofriendly ideas about what constituted waste disposal.
      He checked for kidney damage in the workers of a lead-acid battery factory and found quite a loss of function; but the workers were better off than the near by residence who were exposed to lead, but not monitored and medicated.

  22. ‘Only rich people can afford environmental conservation.’
    C’est vrai, Chief.

  23. Without growth, society is zero-sum — meaning that the only way anyone, not just the poor, can aspire to better themselves or their children, is by making someone else worse. And that ends up in only one of two ways: either society calcifies into permanent, fixed slots for each individual, enforced by the state, or it degenerates into a war of all against all. The most likely would be a hellish mixture of the two.

    I think growth is preferable — and just remember that this planet is not its limit.

  24. “Limits on working hours would give us time to restore neighborhoods, grow some of our own food, de-stress, and engage in our own favorite artistic, athletic, and cultural activities”

    17.7% of the working age adults in Detroit have unlimited non-working hours, yet Detroit does not strike me as a city filled with unstressed, well-fed people busy restoring their neighborhoods. They do engage in a number of artistic, athletic, and cultural activities, if you count spray-painting, mugging and murdering each other as valid recreational activities.

    • k scott denison

      +1

    • There is a big difference between limiting working hours and not working at all.

    • k scott denison

      Joseph you are correct, there is a difference. There is also a minimum amount of work/effort required in order to be rewarded for one’s efforts. One has to add some value to someone in order to be rewarded. It is basic human nature.

      Think back to the days when it was every man for himself. When it was work or starve. It wasn’t those working less who prospered. And so, too, today. It’s just harder to see the direct connection.

    • Steven Mosher

      he had and interesting list of leisure activities..
      he should have said.. more time to go to bible study, picket abortion clinics,
      go to the gun range, hunt baby seals, pass out “The watch tower” watch Dance moms and nascar, install a lift kit on the Jeep, jetski, tear up the desert with an ATV..

    • k scott denison

      Steven, another very constructive comment. Do voices in your head tell you these things?

    • Steven Mosher

      we are legion

    • k scott denison

      Guess I just don’t get your sense of humor Steven. :/()

      But your comment below, with the link to whom is against the Keystone pipeline, is right on.

    • I’m amused that the Pursuit of Happiness was early construed as the Right to Property.
      ==============

    • @ Steven Mosher

      “he had and interesting list of leisure activities..
      he should have said.. more time to go to bible study, picket abortion clinics,
      go to the gun range, hunt baby seals, pass out “The watch tower” watch Dance moms and nascar, install a lift kit on the Jeep, jetski, tear up the desert with an ATV..”

      Another example of observation vs theory.

      Doc’s list of activities ware based on observation of groups with essentially unlimited leisure time–actual data; yours merely a list of a few theoretically ideal leisure activities, but never observed in the real world except among groups whose primary activity is work and whose leisure time is in fact quite limited. (Except for the ‘hunt baby seals’ one; that one is actually work, not leisure, so it should be taken off your list.)

  25. Steven Mosher

    mine the moon

    • Yes, but first we need to explore the Moon.
      NASA needs to explore the Moon to find minable water deposits
      which are in the lunar poles.
      Once NASA has explore the Moon, adequately, so as to determine
      where and if there is minable water, private enterprise can evaluate
      the results and make decision regarding possible investment in capital
      needed to for lunar water mining.
      In meanwhile, NASA ends it’s major lunar exploration program and begins
      a major Mars exploration program, which leads to manned bases on Mars
      which needed for the large amount exploration of Mars needed to understand the rather area of Mars- as much land area as on Earth.
      This Mars exploration would be focused on possibility of future human settlements on Mars.
      While NASA explores Mars, one could get commercial lunar water mining and production of rocket fuel in the space environment [lunar water and rocket fuel would be exported from the Lunar surface]. Among other things,
      the production of lunar rocket fuel enables cheaper Mars exploration and eventual settlements on Mars. Perhaps more important, mining lunar water and making rocket allows increasing amount of harvesting solar energy
      in space. And evenually this will allow electrical power generated in space
      to transmitted to earth. Giving unlimited source of cheap, clean, global electrical power on Earth. Or solar energy from space because it’s a constant source of power can be global solution for future energy needs, if one lower the cost of getting solar panel into space [and mining the Moon for water and making rocket fuel will lead to this].

    • Well, the data from the ISS suggests that too many astronauts get brain swelling from non-Gee conditions. Mars is off NASA’s list for a couple of decades and the Moon and Asteroid missions are going to be a go.

      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/initiative/index.html#.UyzALfldWb8

    • Why China is fixated on the Moon

      The Moon could be a “beautiful” source of minerals and energy, a top Chinese scientist has told the BBC.

      Lunar Mining

      Given the current state of Earth-to-orbit boost technology, it is neither economical nor environmentally friendly to use rockets to loft the enormous volume of materials from the Earth’s surface to build structures of the size of solar power satellites and space colonies in Earth orbit. Fortunately, NASA’s Apollo missions of the last century found that Lunar surface soils are comprised of about 20 percent metals (suitable for space construction) and 20 percent silicon (which is needed for making solar power cells). Much of the rest of lunar soil is composed of oxygen.

      One thing missed here is that metals aren’t the only, or probably even the best, material for construction. Silicon and oxygen make silica, which in the form of glass fibers is a widely used construction material. Quartz fibers, made of crystalized silica, are also a well-known component of higher-strength materials.

      Another point involves the effect of extra-terrestrial radiation on semi-conducters. Suppose they render the idea of “solar panels” unworkable. Silica with a fine coating of metallic aluminum could be used to concentrate the sun’s energy, beaming it through a hole in a hollow sphere of raw Moon rock/dust perhaps 10 meters thick. They would then be guided (by other mirrors) onto solar PV (of the sort currently being proofed by IBM) at concentrations of 1-2000. This much rock (10 meters) would have similar radiation shielding effects to the atmosphere, allowing the PV to escape the destructive effects of “cosmic rays”.

    • -DocMartyn | March 21, 2014 at 5:45 pm |

      Well, the data from the ISS suggests that too many astronauts get brain swelling from non-Gee conditions. Mars is off NASA’s list for a couple of decades and the Moon and Asteroid missions are going to be a go.

      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/initiative/index.html#.UyzALfldWb8

      Mars is about 1/3rd of Earth gravity. We don’t know the long term affects of 1/3rd of gravity. [Nor do we know long term effects of twice Earth's gravity.]
      Whether 1/3 or Moon’s 1/6th gravity has long terms effects is unknown but no doubt they will have some kind of effects.
      NASA is currently experimenting with drugs-therapies is are also relating to bone loss from old age and diseases. With some progress in this area though it been a small sample and so it’s still in progress. They are larger studies related simulated lower gravity long duration of bed rest studies which NASA is conducting.

      Getting to Mars one have periods of comparable microgravity as stays on ISS, so trip to Mars is similar to ISS. The long trips to Mars also has problem
      related to GCR:
      “Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) has been measuring the radiation levels during the long 563,000,000 kilometers flight to Mars in conditions similar to those that will be inside a manned spacecraft in the future missions. The RAD showed that during its journey to Mars Curiosity was exposed to an average of 1.8 milliSieverts of GCR radiation per day.

      The current NASA radiation regulation for astronauts allows maximum 3 per cent increase in cancer risk. With about 520 days in interplanetary space needed for to-and-fro Mars travel (without actual landing), the daily 1.8 milliSieverts of GCR radiation make close to 1 Sv in total, much more than allowed for an astronaut to endure.

      “The situation would be greatly improved if we could only get there quite a bit faster,” NASA’s Cary Zeitlin told BBC News. ”
      http://rt.com/news/radiation-mars-travel-impossible-039/

      So we might send crew to Mars faster to reduce GCR, and this also lessen amount time of microgravity.
      And having lunar rocket fuel, could reduce the cost of sending crew to Mars quicker.
      So most mass needed on mars for exploration is not crew, so one can send crew in half the time that one sending everything else which is needed.

      Much of problem of doing anything in space is related to cost of getting things out of Earth large gravity. And getting things out the Moon gravity well is a lot different. It’s exponential difference. Getting to Earth orbit requires about 10 km/sec of delta-v, lunar surface to lunar orbit requires 2 km/sec delta-v. Or is commonly said from Earth it takes about 9 lb of rocket fuel to lift 1 lb of everything else. With leaving moon it’s about 1 lb rocket fuel to lift 1 lb of everything else.

      Another aspect is the costs of rocket fuel to leave earth has little to do with cost of leaving earth- it only if launches were lowered by 1/10th current prices then rocket fuel become a significant cost. Or you increase the cost of rocket fuel on Earth by 10 times it’s current price and have little effect upon total launch costs. And if lunar rocket fuel prices were 1000 times earth rocket fuel costs, that would cheap lunar rocket fuel, it wouldn’t cost much to leave the moon at such prices of rocket fuel- cheaper than going into Earth orbit, but such price of lunar rocket fuel would related to launch costs, or if lower lunar rocket fuel so it’s only 100 times earth rocket fuel,
      you lift stuff from the Moon much cheaper than from Earth- somewhere around 1/10th the cost.
      So if get to point of lunar water being say more than 100 times Earth costs-
      gallon of distilled water, and you get to point of electrical power being $5 per kw/hour [100 times earth cost]] then you have about 1/10th launch costs from the Moon as compared to getting to Earth orbit.
      And then from Lunar orbit vs Earth orbit, lunar obit is much less delta-v to Mars of high Earth orbit [such as Earth's Geostationary orbit- which where one put solar panel to beam power to Earth and is where there is about 1000 satellites, currently]. So point getting lunar water and electrical to be merely 100 times more costly than Earth price, is about 1/2 or 3/4 way to Earth getting electrical power from Space [you also need to lower cost of solar panels made in space]. But this point you lower cost going the Mars by considerable amount, and getting to Moon is little bit more expensive than getting to ISS. And staying on Moon would be cheaper than staying on ISS.
      So during period of Mars exploration lunar prices of water and rocket may be about 1000 times higher, and by beginning of any human settlements
      it could less than 100 times higher. And needs to be about 10 times higher
      before can do space power beaming to Earth.

      So I would say you could have human settlements of Mars before harvesting electrical power from Space to Earth, but they close in time to one another [say one decade].

      In terms asteroids, one might mine asteroids for solar panels for electrical power to Earth, rather than Moon. But the lunar water mining should related to asteroid mining- I think the market for rocket fuel is easier to start on the moon, but ultimately one will get far more water [and much cheaper water] and other resources from asteroids.

    • Lunar Space Elevators for CisLunar Space Development

      This report proposes the lunar space elevator as a revolutionary method for facilitating development of cis-lunar space. The concept combines lunar space elevators with solar-powered robotic climbing vehicles, a system for lunar resource recovery, and orbit transfer space vehicles to carry the lunar material into high Earth orbit. The lunar space elevator provides a “highway” between Earth orbit and the Moon, to bring lunar products into Earth orbit, and to carry supplies from Earth orbit to lunar bases.

    • Steven Mosher

      dont send humans to do a robot job, you silly rabbits.

      .

    • Mosher,

      mine the moon

      What for? Hydrogen?

      But the Moon has only 10,000 TW-years of He3 (in fission reactors). On the other hand, the gaseous planets have 14 billion TW-years of HE3. So, why not go straight to them and mine them?
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/03/04/entering-space-energy-resources/

    • Peter Lang wrote:
      But the Moon has only 10,000 TW-years of He3 (in fission reactors). On the other hand, the gaseous planets have 14 billion TW-years of HE3. So, why not go straight to them and mine them?

      Seriously??

      That means the Moon has about 500 years of today’s energy needs.

      Why, then, got to much more expensive other places, before using what’s close? It’s a matter of money.

      Bad economics.

    • David Springer

      Nope. Mine asteroids and comets. They just need a little push to make them fall into low-earth orbit where they are easily accessable. Gas giants are out of the question as they have exceedingly strong gravitational wells which prohibit lifting anything out of them and no solid surface upon which to base any mining operation. That was a silly suggestion. There are only two extra-terrestrial objects we’ve ever sampled and returned the sample to the earth for laboratory analysis. The first was the earth’s moon and the second was the comet “Wild 2″. Gravity wells prohibit retrieval of material from larger more distant objects.

    • Only one problem with space solar power:

      In the flow chart for each and every subsystem is a block containing the words: ‘And then a miracle occurs’.

    • In the flow chart for each and every subsystem is a block containing the words: ‘And then a miracle occurs’.

      Wishful thinking BS

    • @ AK

      “Wishful thinking BS”

      No, wishful think would have me wishing that Space Solar Power (SSP) is technically feasible. Which I in fact wish. Running the numbers produces the block diagram with ‘Then a Miracle Occurs’ in every critical path.

      Do me a favor. Postulate a SSP system with the design requirement to supply 2 GW to the terrestrial grid. The usual ground system is a rectenna array of around 2 km in diameter. Most proposals I have seen propose a downlink at somewhere between 2.5 and 6 GHz. If modern technology suggests something better, use that (I would be interested in alternatives.).

      Work the problem backwards. We’ll only do the downlink subsystem.

      What is the efficiency of converting the low voltage DC from the rectenna system to high voltage AC at the grid connection? Divide the 2GW requirement by the efficiency to see how much DC power is required.

      What is the efficiency of the rectenna array in converting microwave to DC.
      Divide the DC power requirement by the rectenna efficiency to obtain the microwave illumination power required.

      What is the transmission efficiency? I. e. Assuming perfect beam alignment, what percentage of the microwave output from each transmit module makes it to the rectenna array? Divide the illumination power required by the transmission efficiency to obtain the transmitter output power requirement.

      What is the efficiency of transforming power from the solar collector array to microwave power at the output of transmitter modules? Divide transmitter output power requirement by the collector array to microwave efficiency to obtain the total power required of the collector array.

      Assuming that the collector can output 500 watts per square meter, how many square meters does the collector have, producing how many GW at its output terminals, to meet the 2 GW to the grid requirement? And that is the easy part.

      Now design the downlink. The ground target is 2km in diameter, the transmitter is 40,000 km away. What is the beam width required to be certain that the beam remains on target through all combinations of pointing error?

      At the chosen downlink frequency, what transmit aperture is required to produce the required beam width?

      If you choose a reflector, what is its diameter and what surface tolerance is required so that the reflector actually produces the beam as predicted from a reflector of that diameter? What transmitter technology is available to illuminate the reflector with the required power? (The largest klystrons currently available are less than 1 MW CW and less than 50% efficient at the frequencies of interest. This implies that the outputs of between 5000 and 10000 of them must be combined to illuminate the reflector. Good luck.) Can we build a reflector of the required size with the required surface tolerance?

      If a phased array is chosen, what is its aperture and how many driven elements are required to produce the required beam width? (One proposal I saw required around 5 billion elements, each with its own driver module.)

      What is the phase accuracy and stability required for the driven elements of the phased array to actually produce a beam? How precisely, in degrees, does the output of each driven element have to be controlled to maintain the beam?

      In either case, can we build a structure with the required precision and the mechanical stability required to maintain performance under all conditions of sun loading and station keeping thrusts? What is the MTBF of the transmit modules, how often can we anticipate failures, and how will maintenance be performed? How often? By whom? Will servicing the downlink degrade the pointing?

      The downlink produces continuous thrust; the collector and the downlink both have a significant solar sail effect, which varies continuously over a 24 hour period. Other forces perturb the position. How is station keeping handled? Can we maintain pointing accuracy while keeping station?

      Don’t just say ‘We’ll use pilot beams’ to control the phase.’ without saying with what precision that phase must be maintained, over all driven elements, under all conditions of thermal and station keeping stresses, and how that phase stability translates into mechanical stability. Can a mechanical structure of the required size and with the required stability be installed and pointed with the required precision in a GEO environment?

      Can we actually design and build, under ANY circumstances, a transmitter that will handle the required power and produce a stable beam with the required beam width? If so, can we install and maintain it on station in a GEO orbit?

      You don’t have to actually design the system, just write down the requirements and convince yourself, ignoring the logistics of getting the parts on station and assembling them, that they can be met.

      I have and I couldn’t.

      • @Bob Ludwick…

        No, wishful think would have me wishing that Space Solar Power (SSP) is technically feasible. Which I in fact wish. Running the numbers produces the block diagram with ‘Then a Miracle Occurs’ in every critical path.

        I’m skeptical. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Let me start by repeating an important distinction between “breakthroughs” that involve usually routine R&D improvements, and real breakthroughs that require an enhancement in fundamental theory. An example of the latter is the advances in materials technology necessary for a space elevator. The more routine “breakthroughs” can’t be 100% planned on till real proof-of-concept is available, but they shouldn’t be dismissed as “Then a Miracle Occurs” either.

        Below, I’ve discussed the typical system I use for my own conceptual models. However, progress is happening WRT space solar power, especially along the lines of Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large Phased Array. You’ve challenged me with an “assignment” involving calculations, so I will return the challenge: point out where the “Then a Miracle Occurs” box is in their approach.

        Postulate a SSP system with the design requirement to supply 2 GW to the terrestrial grid. The usual ground system is a rectenna array of around 2 km in diameter. Most proposals I have seen propose a downlink at somewhere between 2.5 and 6 GHz. If modern technology suggests something better, use that (I would be interested in alternatives.).

        When I attended the 1975 Space Resources Utilization Conference, one of the presentations offered the following formula:

        Dd=2πrλ

        …Where “D” and “d” are the diameters of the two aperatures (phased array antenna and rectenna), “r” is the distance between them, and “λ” is the wavelength. I’ve never seen this formula in any textbook, but IIRC I ran it through from original principles at the time, and I’ve run it by skeptics familiar with the relevant theory. AFAIK in principle this will allow effectively 100% of the transmitted energy to be within the circumference of the collector, barring losses from intervening absorption and dispersion. (And, AFAIK, barring some presumably negligible loss from quantum uncertainty.)

        Making a pessimistic assumption of ~1.9 GHz, “2πrλ” would be about 1 meter, with “r”=40,000,000 meters and equal size apertures each would be ~6,325 meters. I assume equal size apertures because there is a variety of different requirements criteria that could lead to different scenarios: multiple small orbital units could feed the same ground installation, especially during early implementation when it might be cheaper to build rectenna than antenna. Or the need for distributed receivers might result in a few very large orbiting antennas feeding multiple rectannas. Your 2,000 meter rectenna would require an ~20,000 meter antenna, which could in theory feed 100 such ground installations.

        At 10,000 watts/square meter, the 6,325 meter rectenna could receive ~300 GWatts (314.159), for 2,000 meters call it 30 GWatts. When I run numbers for proposed feasibility, I usually use the former.

        What is the efficiency of converting the low voltage DC from the rectenna system to high voltage AC at the grid connection? Divide the 2GW requirement by the efficiency to see how much DC power is required.

        What is the efficiency of the rectenna array in converting microwave to DC.
        Divide the DC power requirement by the rectenna efficiency to obtain the microwave illumination power required.

        IIRC prototypes have achieved DC-DC transmission efficiencies of around 80%, over distances short enough that atmospheric absorption and dispersion would be limited, so let’s call it 50% for GEO to surface in areas chosen for minimizing losses. DC-AC conversion would be equivalent to similar figures for ground-based solar PV.

        In earlier discussion here, I simply assumed such stations would feed a planetary grid, with associated capital costs and losses, but since then I’ve discovered the (probable, IMO) improvements using bio-methane, as well as longer-term opportunities with H2 if that technology ever matures. Another option is electrolysis/fuel cells using sodium, calcium, or other light metals, which are much easier to store and transport safely. If we assume that ground-based solar power has matured before the space-based version comes on-line, some such storage/transport system would probably be in place, along with only local electrical grids.

        (I’m reluctant to make that conclusion, but it seems inescapable to me, given how cheap electrolytic systems will be. I would guess what will finally make space solar power economically feasible will be the demand for uncluttered surface allowed to return to “natural” ecology without solar collectors all over the place. Till that demand arises, ground-based solar PV feeding some electrolytic storage/transport system will be cheaper. Not a conclusion I like, but I try to be realistic.)

        What is the transmission efficiency? I. e. Assuming perfect beam alignment, what percentage of the microwave output from each transmit module makes it to the rectenna array? Divide the illumination power required by the transmission efficiency to obtain the transmitter output power requirement.

        At the chosen downlink frequency, what transmit aperture is required to produce the required beam width?

        Answered above.

        If a phased array is chosen, what is its aperture and how many driven elements are required to produce the required beam width? (One proposal I saw required around 5 billion elements, each with its own driver module.)

        I’m assuming a wavelength of ~0.16 meters, so redundancy and good control would probably mandate ~100 elements per square meter. For the 6,325 meter antenna, this would work out to about 3.2 billion elements. I always assume each has its own driver, smart enough to control its phase based on its own knowledge of its position. AFAIK actually creating such “smart” drivers capable of withstanding the radiation environment is the closest thing to a “miracle” required. With laser ranging, position could be known to within 1/10 of a micron.

        What is the phase accuracy and stability required for the driven elements of the phased array to actually produce a beam? How precisely, in degrees, does the output of each driven element have to be controlled to maintain the beam?

        Good question.

        In either case, can we build a structure with the required precision and the mechanical stability required to maintain performance under all conditions of sun loading and station keeping thrusts?

        Yes. As long as each driver knows its element’s position it only needs to be kept roughly on-station (say, within a few microns variation in distance from its neighbor). The actual position and orientation of the 6Km array can vary widely, since beam alignment is produced by “smart” drivers.

        How is station keeping handled? Can we maintain pointing accuracy while keeping station?

        Ion motors with occasion resupplies of reaction matter. (Probably aluminum.) And yes.

        Can we actually design and build, under ANY circumstances, a transmitter that will handle the required power and produce a stable beam with the required beam width? If so, can we install and maintain it on station in a GEO orbit?

        Yes. From the very beginning (of my contact with the idea, anyway) the assumption is that lunar materials would be used by automated factories. Such systems are almost self-reproducing, so only seed technology would be necessary on Luna, which would presumably be manufactured on Earth. Depending on how control technology evolves, the entire system may well be capable of being automated, with human control being exercised from Earth. If not, the actual number on humans on-site would probably be no more than a few hundred, well within the capabilities of a small moon-base. Or, perhaps, an orbiting base, in near-lunar orbit.

        The key to the whole system is that such self-reproducing technology can achieve exponential cost reductions once in process. Such ideas were considered revolutionary in 1975, I certainly had a lot of trouble explaining to even very intelligent people how it would work. But with Moore’s “law” today, it’s a little easier. Only a little though.

        What this means, though, is that once the exponential growth of space-based technology actually gets underway, costs will inevitably become lower than those of any industry that continues to require human effort as a fixed fraction of its operation. Space solar power will become cost-effective at some point, the only question is when. Given what I know of developments in control technology, I would estimate 5-12 decades till surface-based technology will require politically based protectionism to compete. Your results may vary.

    • Oh, c’mon, Bob; that’s just rocket science.
      ============

    • @ kim, AK, et al

      One more thing about Space Solar Power (SSP): A good number of people extolling its virtues wax rhapsodic about the fact that getting the solar collectors off the earth and into GEO means that solar can provide power 24/7/365. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Near the equinoxes, GEO satellites are eclipsed for periods of a minute/day, starting, up to 72 minutes/day at maximum eclipse.

      Here is an explanation from the Intelsat site:

      “The eclipse starts slowly. As the Sun travels from one of the Tropics to the equator, the satellite is blocked for a minute or two, at first. Gradually the eclipse increases until the Sun reaches fall or spring equinox and the satellite, and solar panels, are blocked for 72 minutes. As the Sun continues to travel to the other Tropic, the eclipse time becomes smaller and smaller until the solar panels are again exposed to the Sun 24×7. Eclipse season occurs twice a year. For station-kept satellites, the spring eclipse season runs from approximately 26 February until 12 or 13 April. The fall eclipse season runs from approximately 30 or 31 August until 15 October. For inclined orbit satellites, the eclipse season starts and ends a little earlier, depending on the satellite’s inclination. – See more at: http://www.intelsat.com/tools-resources/satellite-basics/eclipse-seasons/#sthash.b3zVasgR.dpuf

      In other words, a 2 GW SSP system hooked to the grid and expected to provide 24/7/365 service need to provide around 10 gigawatt/hours of backup, either on board or at the ground site, to tide it through eclipse periods. Or, there needs to be excess grid capacity to assume the load when the SSP collector is in eclipse.

    • Bob Ludwick ,

      Excellent comment in reply to AK. Thank you. I’ve copied it for future reference.

      I’d like to see the requirements for the transmission system to get the power transmitted and distributed to meet demand all over the planet. What are the requirements, how would it be done and what would be the cost/

      I’d suggest assume trunk transmission likes cost $1000/MW.km on land and $3000/MW.km under sea.

      What would be the required peak power capacity of the lines and the total length of lines (total MW.km of lines) to be able to meet peak demand at all consumers on the planet?

      What is the added cost per MW of capacity?

    • “The usual ground system is a rectenna array of around 2 km in diameter. Most proposals I have seen propose a downlink at somewhere between 2.5 and 6 GHz. If modern technology suggests something better, use that (I would be interested in alternatives.).”
      Probably needs to be bigger than 2 km diameter.
      Wiki:
      “Power beaming from geostationary orbit by microwaves carries the difficulty that the required ‘optical aperture’ sizes are very large. For example, the 1978 NASA SPS study required a 1-km diameter transmitting antenna, and a 10 km diameter receiving rectenna, for a microwave beam at 2.45 GHz. These sizes can be somewhat decreased by using shorter wavelengths, although they have increased atmospheric absorption and even potential beam blockage by rain or water droplets.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite
      And:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Comparison_of_Laser_and_Microwave_Power_Transmission_for_Space_Station_Power.gif
      Diagram indicates: It starts with 20 kw at space panel ends with user 5.1 kw

      So according to that has efficiency of 25%.

      So in space per square meter one gets 1360 watts of sunlight with only seasonal and brief interruption:
      “From Figure 3 we can also see that because of this sun-earth geometry, the geostationary orbit is usually outside the cone of the earth’s shadow. That is, until around the times of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (the beginning of spring and fall). At these times, geostationary satellites enter their eclipse season, when they can spend as much as 70 minutes of every day in shadow. These seasons run from the end of February through the middle of April and the beginning of September through the middle of October. ”
      https://celestrak.com/columns/v04n09/
      So 3 months of year with about 23 hours rather than 24 hours of sunlight per day. Or miss 90 hours a year [which has 8760 hours] or about 1% of time without sunlight.
      Wiki:
      Capacity factor
      “There are several reasons why a plant would have a capacity factor lower than 100%. The first reason is that it was out of service or operating at reduced output for part of the time due to equipment failures or routine maintenance. This accounts for most of the unused capacity of base load power plants. Base load plants have the lowest costs per unit of electricity because they are designed for maximum efficiency and are operated continuously at high output. Geothermal plants, nuclear plants, coal-fired plants and bioenergy plants that burn solid material are almost always operated as base load plants.” And:
      “According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2009 the capacity factors were as follows:

      Natural Gas Plant–42.5%
      Oil–7.8%
      Hydroelectric–39.8%
      Other renewables (Wind/Solar/Biomass)–33.9%
      Coal–63.8%
      Nuclear–90.3%
      However they do tend to vary.

      Wind farms 20-40%.
      Photovoltaic solar in Massachusetts 13-15%.
      Photovoltaic solar in Arizona 19%.
      CSP solar in California 33%.
      CSP solar with storage and Natural Gas backup in Spain 63%”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacity_factor

      So with space solar at GEO one could get a max capacity factor of nearly 99%.

      So I am not arguing we do space power now.
      It’s hopelessly economically impossible.
      Don’t think one will ship solar panels from Earth as it is too expensive. Generally with various studies in regard to SPS it’s thought earth launch cost would have lower to somewhere around $100 per lb to LEO.
      And I am assuming before starting it, that from Moon launch cost should about say, $50 per lb to GEO.
      Or about 4 times cheaper launch costs to GEO as the various studies suggest the launch cost have get down to.

    • “In other words, a 2 GW SSP system hooked to the grid and expected to provide 24/7/365 service need to provide around 10 gigawatt/hours of backup, either on board or at the ground site, to tide it through eclipse periods. Or, there needs to be excess grid capacity to assume the load when the SSP collector is in eclipse.”

      But this assuming there is one location in GEO. During near Equinox all
      solar asset in GEO will have this reduction of about 1 hour per 24 hours.
      But divide the sky into say 20 hours, only one of 20 will be in darkness at any one time. As said other power plants don’t run constant every hour of the year- 9 out of 10 hours is regarded as base load. Whereas 2 out of 10 hours is more than solar energy on Earth gets.
      So solar array one either side can provide coverage, but not going eliminate all power plants on Earth. Hydro is good for filling these kinds of gaps. And since it’s predictable one also have other kinds of power plants which are planned to go online.
      Probably one should only have as much 50% electrical power coming from Space, though of course we going more demand of electrical power in the future. So even if 1/2 power coming from space, you could more earth power plants in future then we currently have.
      And with this beaming of energy infrastructure, one take power generated on the earth surface halfway around the world, beam it via satellites.

    • @ gbaikie

      I think you missed my point. The required downlink beam width is less than 12 arc seconds, with NO allowance for pointing error, mechanical or electrical. Under any circumstances can we build an antenna with that beam width at the required frequency and capable of transmitting 4-5 GW? Go back and look up the surface tolerance for a dish of the required aperture or the aperture, number of driven elements and the phase and amplitude accuracy requirements for the signal emitted from each element to produce a beam. Then translate those phase requirements into mechanical stability requirements under the stresses of station keeping and being illuminated by full sun at a continuously varying illumination angle. For example, a dish 50m in diameter, operated at 3 GHz, will experience a gain reduction of 1db if the surface tolerance is worse than around .008 in. An rms surface tolerance of .025 in will degrade it by 10 db. In other words, if it varies from true parabola by more than .025 in, it will LOOK like a parabolic dish, but for all practical purposes it won’t be an antenna. The bigger the dish, the more stringent the surface tolerance requirements. And the downlink aperture requires a LOT bigger dish. Going to a phased array doesn’t help. The phase accuracy and stability requirements translate into equivalent mechanical stability.

      If we can, can we build it in GEO and keep the transmit beam pointed accurately and stably enough to keep more than 95% of the emitted energy inside a 10 arc sec cone, using whatever combination of electrical and mechanical control seems optimum?

      I say no to both.

      It’s a little like the big building problem. We can build pretty tall buildings, currently maxed out at 828 m. No matter how desirable it would be, for whatever purpose we wanted it, we CAN’T build a 25 km building. The same with large antennas. We build antennas all the time, dishes and phased arrays of various types for various purposes. We CAN’T (my opinion, for which I have defensible reasons) build an antenna with performance required to beam gigawatt levels from GEO to a ground site.

      Another problem that I never mentioned is the heat problem. Since the overall efficiency of translating power from the collector output terminals to microwave power in the downlink is likely no better than 50%, the downlink has to get rid of 4-5 gigawatts, continuously, while being illuminated by the sun at 1300 watts per square meter, as the sun loading aspect angle varies over 360 degrees every 24 hours. Another non-trivial problem

      One more: The collector has to point at the sun continuously. The downlink has to point at the ground site continuously. With arc second stability. Therefore, the collector and the downlink rotate relative to each other, one rev/day. The task is to couple the energy from the collector to the downlink. Slip rings? The requirement is somewhere between 5 and 10 GW. Picking 5, that translates into 100,000 amps @ 50,000 volts, or distributed between V and A as seems engineeringly reasonable. Does anyone know how to build slip rings that will do that in a vacuum? If not slip rings, build the collector and downlink as a rigid system, but with the reflector designed so that it produces full output at all illumination angles? OK but it gets LOTS bigger and heavier. I’m not an engineer nor am I ‘thinking outside the box'; maybe the solution actually IS trivial.

      My position is that if the aliens stopped by CALTEC in 2017 and told them, ‘Hi, guys, we were just stopping by for the 70th reunion at Roswell and we heard that you wanted to build a SSP system but were having trouble getting your stuff up to GEO. We can’t help you much now, but we’ll be back in 2027 for the 80th and if you want we would be happy to haul a few megatons of stuff up there for you and dump it out wherever you want it.’, our chances of translating their offer into a functioning SSP system would be for all intents and purposes zero.

      As for having backup systems on orbit to handle the eclipse problem, no matter how you slice it, if a downlink is providing 2 GW to the grid, THAT 2 GW is going to go away during eclipse unless you have 10 gigawatt-hours of storage on orbit or 5 gigawatt-hours on the ground. Also, the backup has to be physically separated from the primary by around 12,500 km (18 deg) to ensure that one of them is always ‘hot’. More logistics problems.

    • @Bob Ludwick…

      In case you missed it, my response to your challenge is Here.

    • AK, the equation for resolution of your ugly vision is that the utility of power density become less in space than on Earth. Unfortunately, that’s far off; meanwhile, we get scaly skin as the pathological manifestation.
      ============

    • @Bob Ludwick…

      Oh, and WRT the eclipsing argument, GEO isn’t really necessary. Only something close to it with a period of exactly one day. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same orbit throughout the year, station keeping can be used to move the orbit around so it never eclipses.

      Of course, if space solar power ends up feeding a mature power storage and transport technology, rather than monster grid dinosaurs, it wouldn’t really matter.

    • Another problem that I never mentioned is the heat problem. Since the overall efficiency of translating power from the collector output terminals to microwave power in the downlink is likely no better than 50%, the downlink has to get rid of 4-5 gigawatts, continuously, while being illuminated by the sun at 1300 watts per square meter, as the sun loading aspect angle varies over 360 degrees every 24 hours. Another non-trivial problem

      The technology for transferring large amounts of heat in space is well-known, if not really mature. Heat pipes. Today they are made with water, ammonia, or some mixture, but these are really very corrosive materials. (We just don’t usually notice because we’re evolved for them.) Some mixture of methane and short-chain hydrocarbons would probably work better, despite the lower heat of vaporization. In space, protected from micro-meteorites, structures could be tiny, especially with low operating pressures.

      The more interesting question is: how much energy can we suck back from the temperature drop, assuming a radiator shielded from solar radiation by the collector(s)? And is it worth the extra construction?

    • @ AK

      “Oh, and WRT the eclipsing argument, GEO isn’t really necessary. Only something close to it with a period of exactly one day. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same orbit throughout the year, station keeping can be used to move the orbit around so it never eclipses.”

      You may want to go back and read what you just wrote: The DEFINITION of GEO is an orbit with a period of exactly one day and whose orbital plane is congruent with the plane of the equator. I think that you’ll also find that ‘moving the orbit around so it never eclipses’ is ‘orbital mechanically impossible’ (I’m not an orbital mechanic.). Anything you do the orbit introduces a tracking problem. You now have the problem of moving a megaton of stuff around–takes LOTS of energy–while slewing its bore sight, at a continuously variable rate, so that it remains within an arc second or so of optimum.

      When you push a structure with dimensions of multiple kilometers in a zero g environment, it will flex. And continue to flex after you quit pushing it. Do you really think that we have the technology to monitor the relative 3D position of a few billion radiators with sub-millimeter precision, calculate the phase and amplitude adjustments required to maintain the beam integrity, and control the feeds to each of the elements with the precision required, in real time and with rapid enough updates to compensate for any mechanical flexing induced by the station keeping thrusters, whatever the forces that they are compensating for? And that is ignoring the differential phase delays induced by the variable sun loading on signal paths that can range from meters to kilometers. A more basic question is ‘If we postulate perfect mechanical rigidity and zero temperature coefficient for the whole shebang, do we have technology to configure the drive system so that the array in fact produces a beam of the required beam width? My opinion (like the famous body part) is that the answer is ‘No’.

      Don’t get me wrong. I would very much LIKE for SSP to be viable, if only for the fact that it would force us to develop a space transport system. Or colonize the moon, whatever. I just think that is IMPOSSIBLE–as in not achievable with current technology and materials, not undesirable. Y

      et another hitch in the git-along is that between the energy required to haul the system into orbit, get it assembled and operational, refuel the station keeping thrusters, and service the system, it may turn out that it is an overall energy sink rather than an energy source. Several years ago Rockwell submitted a formal proposal for an SSP system. Among its many other features (including the ‘Then a Miracle Occurs’ blocks in all the critical paths) was the estimate that it would require around 800 tons/week-payload-delivered to GEO to service it and keep it operational (I can’t find the original proposal, but it is out there if you look hard and get lucky.). Do the energy math.

      I’ll be the first to admit that ALL the proposals I have seen present the launch vehicle to be the ‘tall pole in the tent’. They also address the down link by saying something like ‘The output of the solar array will be sent to a microwave transmitter, which will beam the energy down to earth to ground based collectors, which will convert the energy into AC power and feed it into the grid.’ My reaction, is ‘Hold on there a minute kemo sabe. Seems like there are a few details missing here.’ Like those I have previously mentioned, which, in my view, put it into the 25 km skyscraper category, Neat idea, but is going to require a bit more work before it is ready for prime time. It may be that I am a know-nothing, defeatist, Luddite, but I keep doing the problem and getting the same answer–not happenin’. I would be ecstatic if someone would prove me wrong by building one before I go toes up. Which means they better get on it.

      • @Bob Ludwick…

        You may want to go back and read what you just wrote: The DEFINITION of GEO is an orbit with a period of exactly one day and whose orbital plane is congruent with the plane of the equator. I think that you’ll also find that ‘moving the orbit around so it never eclipses’ is ‘orbital mechanically impossible’ (I’m not an orbital mechanic.).

        No, it’s simple precession. Doesn’t take that much energy. And you don’t need an orbit that stays exactly over one place, just something that doesn’t change its angle by more than, say, 15°. Tilting a circular orbit causes the station to describe a perceived circle in the sky (AFAIK). Changing the tilt so it precesses over the space of a year wouldn’t take much force, and only tiny amounts of reaction mass given the plentiful amounts of energy the antenna system is processing.

        When you push a structure with dimensions of multiple kilometers in a zero g environment, it will flex. And continue to flex after you quit pushing it. Do you really think that we have the technology to monitor the relative 3D position of a few billion radiators with sub-millimeter precision, calculate [...]

        Each driver will calculate its own position, with sub-micron precision, using a system analogous to GPS but with light. In 3 dimensions. And control its own phase. Are you saying the technology won’t be available? Isn’t that what somebody might have said about what digital cell phones do back in 1984? This won’t take “breakthroughs”, not even smaller scales than the current 22nm, just billions of them. That’s where the principle of exponential increase in manufacturing volume comes in.

        Y[...]et another hitch in the git-along is that between the energy required to haul the system into orbit, get it assembled and operational, refuel the station keeping thrusters, and service the system, it may turn out that it is an overall energy sink rather than an energy source.

        Not using lunar materials and mass drivers. I realize it’s a little hard to conceive from scratch, I have the advantage that I saw Gerard O’Neill‘s presentation at Princeton, describing the mass-driver. A working prototype was “demonstrated at the May 1977 Princeton-American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Symposium on Space Manufacturing.” Subsequent prototypes have evolved.

        I’ll be the first to admit that ALL the proposals I have seen present the launch vehicle to be the ‘tall pole in the tent’. They also address the down link by saying something like ‘The output of the solar array will be sent to a microwave transmitter, which will beam the energy down to earth to ground based collectors, which will convert the energy into AC power and feed it into the grid.’

        Did you miss my earlier comment?

    • @ AK

      You provided this:

      http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/716070main_Mankins_2011_PhI_SPS_Alpha.pdf

      as an argument for the feasibility of SSP. I read it.

      Condensed, as I said, the flow chart for every subsystem contains the moral equivalent of ‘Then a Miracle Occurs’. They don’t put it like that, and they are oh so confident that in 30-50 years enough technology advancements (breakthroughs) will have been made to make it economically feasible. Not now, not with existing technology and/or materials.

      An example, of many scattered through the work: “Moreover, in order to realize the longer-term potential of the SPS-ALPHA architecture to deliver power to terrestrial markets at commercially competitive prices, significant improvements will be required over component technologies available in space systems now (in 2012).”

      My first point is: NO PART of the project is unfeasible on a small scale. Power transmission was demonstrated long ago. Over a mile or so. Phased arrays are common. Solar collectors using hybrid technology are potentially able to operate at 80% efficiency. Rectenna arrays have been built and have delivered power in the 20 kw range. We have multiple satellites in GEO orbit. Etcetera

      My second point is that NONE of the technology described in the NASA paper has been shown to be scalable to the required size (big building problem).

      A couple other things I noticed was the down link was described as an ‘Arbitrarily Large Phased Array’. Apparently simply naming it makes it technically feasible, as there was no other supporting documentation, other than saying it would be made by assembling 200,000-300,000 Wireless Power Transmission (WPT) modules into a planar array and using them to beam the power down. NO suggestion that scaling up 5 orders of magnitude above the lab version and installing and operating it in GEO presented any unusual problems. At least no more than scaling the world’s tallest skyscraper up by 1.5 orders of magnitude.

      Another thing that caught my eye was the estimated requirement for 1,000,000 kg of O&M hardware/year, with the implication (unstated) that all O&M would be done by robots. A million kg of hardware in GEO doesn’t come cheap. And they didn’t say how they proposed to dispose of the million kg that was being replaced. If they propose to leave it floating around there, the other denizens of GEO will NOT be amused.

      At any rate, this could go on forever, but the bottom line is that barring ‘black swan’ advancements in technology, and soon, SSP will remain science fiction for me and my children.

      • @Bob Ludwick…

        Condensed, as I said, the flow chart for every subsystem contains the moral equivalent of ‘Then a Miracle Occurs’. They don’t put it like that, and they are oh so confident that in 30-50 years enough technology advancements (breakthroughs) will have been made to make it economically feasible. Not now, not with existing technology and/or materials.

        Those aren’t miracles. Those are best-guess projections that might not be correct. Mostly there are good reasons for supposing those advancements, not breakthroughs, will occur.

        An example, of many scattered through the work: “Moreover, in order to realize the longer-term potential of the SPS-ALPHA architecture to deliver power to terrestrial markets at commercially competitive prices, significant improvements will be required over component technologies available in space systems now (in 2012).”

        If those improvements are on the lab bench, or reasonably predictable based on current theory you have no right to dismiss them as “Then a Miracle Occurs”.

        My second point is that NONE of the technology described in the NASA paper has been shown to be scalable to the required size (big building problem).

        People have been scaling things up for 22 centuries

        At any rate, this could go on forever, but the bottom line is that barring ‘black swan’ advancements in technology, and soon, SSP will remain science fiction for me and my children.

        Nah! “‘black swan’ advancements” not needed. There’s nothing AFAIK that anybody familiar with the technology could reasonably say requires a “miracle”. As for “me and my children”, my “5-12 decades” estimate does overlap with your range.

    • “It’s a little like the big building problem. We can build pretty tall buildings, currently maxed out at 828 m. No matter how desirable it would be, for whatever purpose we wanted it, we CAN’T build a 25 km building. ”

      I would agree it would costly and difficult to build a building 25 km tall on Earth- but such problems would be lessen if you were to build such tall buildings on the Moon. As there is a 1/6th of the gravity and no wind.

      -The same with large antennas. We build antennas all the time, dishes and phased arrays of various types for various purposes. We CAN’T (my opinion, for which I have defensible reasons) build an antenna with performance required to beam gigawatt levels from GEO to a ground site. –

      And major problem with large dishes in Earth is wind and gravity- hence the reason that Aricebo Observatory is still largest single telescope.
      It assumed that very large radio telescope could built on the Moon, what you regard as largest radio telescope that could ever be built on the Moon which could pointed rather than fixed [not one just in a natural crater- or from made crater].

      “Another problem that I never mentioned is the heat problem. ”
      I am talking about a point in time where water and such things as steel in space is quite inexpensive. Steel is about $500 per ton on Earth, and so at such a future time, it would be where steel is somewhere around 5 to 10 times more expensive in the space environment rather than where it is currently -thousands of times more expensive.
      So, anything hot, is just another energy source.
      Getting something hot is what doing with nuclear energy.
      And other than using solar energy, Russian have made quite a few nuclear reactors for space use.
      And rather PV it’s quite possible use the sun to generate heat and use that heat way as way to generate electrical power. As it done sometimes on Earth. I tend consider that PV will be a common way to make electrical power in space, but just because we use PV in space now, it doesn’t mean it will be way it’s done in the future.

      “One more: The collector has to point at the sun continuously. The downlink has to point at the ground site continuously. With arc second stability. Therefore, the collector and the downlink rotate relative to each other, one rev/day. The task is to couple the energy from the collector to the downlink. Slip rings? The requirement is somewhere between 5 and 10 GW. Picking 5, that translates into 100,000 amps @ 50,000 volts, or distributed between V and A as seems engineeringly reasonable. Does anyone know how to build slip rings that will do that in a vacuum?”

      No idea- magnetic?
      I mentioned space elevators. I should mention that hardest part of space
      elevators in last few thousand miles to earth surface. So one hang things from GEO [like you can a space elevator], to where Earth’s gravity is about 1/4 or 1/2 of Earth gravity and so is far less dependent on the magically strong material- if one assumes transmission over long distance is a unresolvable problem. [1/4 gravity is about 6400 km above earth surface.]
      This also allows you the get earth like conditions- you have some gravity and you could have air if want it.
      Fundamentally I am against any idea of transmitting electrical energy from
      space to earth at the present, because it’s ignoring the obvious- electrical power in space is worth more in space as compared to Earth at present time. So I would be more favorable to ideas of beaming electrical power from Earth to space at the moment.

      -My position is that if the aliens stopped by CALTEC in 2017 and told them, ‘Hi, guys, we were just stopping by for the 70th reunion at Roswell and we heard that you wanted to build a SSP system but were having trouble getting your stuff up to GEO. We can’t help you much now, but we’ll be back in 2027 for the 80th and if you want we would be happy to haul a few megatons of stuff up there for you and dump it out wherever you want it.’, our chances of translating their offer into a functioning SSP system would be for all intents and purposes zero. –

      If the aliens would provide us with power plant on the Moon is would be very helpful. Or technology whatever energy source they using to travel to star could be useful on Earth. Though stuff put in GEO would not be my first choice. Though 1000 tons or more water in GEO would probably be the most valuable- more valuable on the Moon- but GEO could be a second choice.
      But hopefully by 2027 we would have already mined a 1000 tons of water on the Moon.

  26. John de Graaf and other Malthusians (e.g., Ehrlich, Holdren) don’t mind growth health, education, and leisure time — you know: entitlements — but not in material “development” like – say… something like the Hoover Dam or a nuclear power plant.

  27. The quest for growth is essential for the survival of market based economies. That the quest really leads to growth is not as essential as some other parts of the economy may shrink more than growing parts grow.

    • With the on-going evolution of control technology, perhaps we really are today reaching starting to reach the point that an “economy of scarcity” doesn’t work. OTOH, Marx predicted it a long time ago, and look what his followers ended up doing.

  28. To Western academia global warming research is an example of something that is sustainable and desirable.

  29. The United States is the best example of this. Per capita income has tripled since the 1950s, but happiness levels have been flat or falling, according to yearly surveys conducted by Gallup.

    Very easily explainable: wealthy Americans suffer from a socialism deficiency and the sooner the Left spends all their savings the happier everyone will be…

  30. If I grew up living on a dirt floor and moved to America and had my own room and access to a flush toilet and could take a hot shower with clean anytime I wanted, my increased happiness would be a lot more than 25 percent.

  31.  
    Dreams of my EU: Marx, Keynes and other great economists were clear about this: We should share the jobs and work less.

  32. Unfortunately, the promised land for de Graaf’s ‘Environmentalists’ are the pockets of the productive. The Left must accept responsibility for the death of millions. They have turned their collective and consensual backs on the humanitarian issue of our time!

    “[E]nvironmentalists should recognize the shale gas revolution as beneficial to society – and lend their full support to helping it advance.” ~Richard and Elizabeth Muller

    • “[E]nvironmentalists should recognize the shale gas revolution as beneficial to society – and lend their full support to helping it advance.” ~Richard and Elizabeth Muller

      Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to providing the noncarbon economy that we need:
      http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-if-natural-gas-produced-all-our.html

      • Oh! how the Left hates big oil but, before electricity (made utilizing fossil or nuclear fuel or damned-up water) were school teachers just as critical of, big candle? Nevertheless, technology marches on without the help of the teachers of global warming alarmism… nor their blessing. Even so, we’re now burning natural gas which means we’re burning more hydrogen and less carbon. Government did not demand we do this: “Government is not a solution to our problem government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan )

    • Run the numbers. I have. Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to the carbon reductions we need — not by a longshot.

      • David Springer

        I the next decade or three synthetic biology will have progressed to the point where we are using photosynthetic bacteria in self-reproducing factories to produce finished goods from air, water, and sunlight. The basic building block for a huge and hugely diverse array of materials used in the manufacture of finished goods is carbon. The most available source of carbon is CO2 in the atmosphere. What we need is more of it not less. I predict that before the year 2050 will have gone full circle and will be seeking to establish international law that restricts how much CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere instead of the current drive to restrict how much may be added.

        Write that down.

    • Where are the reductions going to come from, apple? Fracking is the only game in town, you dolt.

    • David Appell

      Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to providing the noncarbon economy that we need

      Maybe not. But it’ll sure help.

      Frack, baby, frack!

      Max

    • k scott denison

      David Appell (@davidappell) | March 22, 2014 at 12:46 am |
      Run the numbers. I have. Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to the carbon reductions we need — not by a longshot.
      _______________________

      As the saying goes: “presumes facts not in evidence”. What reductions do we need David? Just because you think we need some doesn’t mean the rest of agree with you.

      Many of us believe we need no carbon reductions. Guess natural gas can help us with that, eh?

    • Sorry, bad formatting – second try:

      David Appell

      Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to providing the noncarbon economy that we need

      You assume that renewable non-nuclear sources are going to come anywhere close to providing the amount of energy the world needs, at a price it can afford.
      They can’t – not by a VERY long shot.

    • David Appell (@davidappell) | March 22, 2014 at 12:46 am |

      Run the numbers. I have. Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to the carbon reductions we need — not by a longshot.

      First of all, what Richard and Elizabeth Muller were referring to was the rapid adoption of cleaner energy when it became cost-effective. Natural gas isn’t the ultimate answer, it’s being proposed as a bridge fuel.

      Now, it’s my contention that:

      a):   Solar power is becoming cheaper on an exponential curve, so ultimately it will be able to outcompete any technology that doesn’t do likewise.

      b)   The creation of methane from hydrogen and CO2 dragged from the air can be accomplished via bio-tech, another technology that, like solar PV, appears to becoming cheaper on an exponential curve.

      c)   By converting solar power to hydrogen through electrolysis of water, NON-natural gas will (probably) become the cheapest way to store, transport, and use solar energy. (If it doesn’t, that’ll be because some other new technology outstrips it.) It will allow solar energy to be collected wherever it’s available and the surface is cheap, cheaply transported to where it’s needed, and cheaply used as fuel, as power created from fuel cells or other very-high-efficiency systems, and as power generated through legacy systems originally developed for natural gas.

      Combining that with Richard and Elizabeth Muller’s point:

      [E]nvironmentalists should recognize the shale gas revolution as beneficial to society – and lend their full support to helping it advance.

      …We see that the “shale gas revolution”, the sea-floor methane hydrate revolution that’s already being sparked, and the revolution in “bio-methane” from cheap solar power will work in sequence to take our species off its dependence on fossil carbon without impacting the progress in per capita energy usage.

      And using the technology I’ve described/predicted, CO2 will be dragged from the air in quantities sufficient to draw down the amounts of carbon added from fossil sources during the early part of the Industrial Revolution.

    • We certainly hope that drawdown of CO2 will not much cool the earth.
      ============

    • @ David Appell

      “Run the numbers. I have. Natural gas can’t come anywhere close to the carbon reductions we need — not by a longshot.”

      I don’t see why, since the only numbers that we have for ‘needed’ carbon reductions, other than zero, come via ex cathedra proclamation vice empirical data.

  33. Steven Mosher

    Who opposes growth? Rich Liberal PHds
    Take Keystone.

    Those who oppose growth.

    http://www.people-press.org/2014/03/19/keystone-xl-pipeline-divides-democrats/

    In other words. They got their money. They got their material goods.
    They now realize that they are not happy and they want to prevent others
    from making the same tragic mistake. Instead, they suggest that those who have less material goods should work less and spend their leisure time
    gardening, painting, doing altheltics ( preferably yoga or some non contact sport ) and going to cultural activities like the local chile cook off an art museum or maybe go to burning man.

    • As an actual inner-city kid, from an industrially peasant background I was a little shocked at middle class wan8ers tell me about the class struggle and the coming socialist utopia. I knew all about redistribution, as in parts of Birmingham the muggers had to go around in pairs.

    • “socialist utopia”??

      I thought they wanted to keep flying around the world to their latest must-see holidy destination, while banning kerosene lanterns for the poor?

    • Michael wrote:
      I thought they wanted to keep flying around the world to their latest must-see holidy destination, while banning kerosene lanterns for the poor?

      I’m just curious — how do you like your own socialism? You know, the deductibility of your mortgage interest, your employer’s costs for health insurance, your tax deductions for retirement savings and college savings?

      Ready to give those all up in the name of hardball capitalism?

    • Steven Mosher

      “Ready to give those all up in the name of hardball capitalism?”

      Yes.

    • +10 for funny!

    • Yes.

      Easy to say. Trivial actually, because you know it won’t come true. The middle class likes all their tax deductions — their socialism — far too much to ever vote against it. Which is why they never do.

    • DA – taxes are the socialistic part, taking less taxes is therefore the negative of socialism.

    • Steven Mosher

      “Easy to say. Trivial actually, because you know it won’t come true. The middle class likes all their tax deductions — their socialism — far too much to ever vote against it. Which is why they never do.”

      Really.

      You know, the deductibility of your mortgage interest? Dont use it
      your employer’s costs for health insurance? Don’t have any
      your tax deductions for retirement savings? Don’t use it
      college savings? I worked my way through college and grad school. no loans.
      I make charitable contributions and dont take deductions.

      Next. you tool

    • stevefitzpatrick

      David Appell,
      I think all those things are distortions of the market, and ought to be done away with. I probably oppose most of your socialist programs as well. Same reason.

    • DA – taxes are the socialistic part, taking less taxes is therefore the negative of socialism.

      False. Liking your favorable government tax policies makes you just as much of a socialist as anyone else — you just don’t like to admit it. (Understandable.)

    • Steven Mosher
      I make charitable contributions and dont take deductions.

      I highly doubt it. And you’d still get standard deductions. Your employer still takes deductions for providing you with benefits.

      Everyone dislikes socialism, until they get called on it. They like their own just fine.

    • The little apple from the left wing favors confiscatory taxing of the haves to maintain the have-nots in the life-style to which they have become accustomed; dependent on handouts and mired for generations in poverty and hopelessness. The tax deductions (enjoyed by people who actually work) that the little one finds offensive have encouraged more retirement saving, more home building and more home ownership, more health coverage related to employment, etc. The handouts have just got us more poor people precariously hanging on in the war zones of bankrupt cities run into the ground by little apples with their bankrupt ideology.

    • I don’t think that Mosher has an employer. My guess is he is rich. like me. He probably made it on his own, like I did. You are obviiously a bitter little underachiever.

      • David Springer

        Don Monfort | March 22, 2014 at 12:38 am |

        “My guess is he is rich rich a$$hole, like me.”

        Fixed that for ya. Consider it a professional courtesy from one self-made smug rich a$$hole to another. Luck plays a large role in becoming a self-made milliionaire. Lots of people have their nose to the grindstone all their lives and most of them never happen to be in the right place at the right time. Mosher and I were lucky enough to get into the dot.com boom early and smart enough to get out before it was too late. You?

    • John Carpenter

      “how do you like your own socialism?”

      Tu quoque Appell,

      The idea that personal income tax deductions are a form of socialism is wrong. The government does not own the money you earn. The individual who earned it does. Profits and earned income are not common to the society as a whole, they are private. Taxation is a levy for common services imposed by government that does not come from the idea of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution’.

    • Well said, Mosh.

    • John Carpenter : The idea that personal income tax deductions are a form of socialism is wrong … [and this] this does not come from the idea of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution’.

      I think perhaps you meant to say : ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’, a la the Marx quote about what socialism is.

      And that of course is the exact effect and purpose of income tax – socialism.

    • Ouch.

      You know how to hurt those poor little old well educated liberals. Some of my best friends are in that category.

    • David Appell,

      Yes.

      In exchange for a flat tax.

  34. k scott denison

    Whenever I see statements like “we can’t grow on”, I just remember these simple words:

    “Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894″

    Which I suspect would have been the title of Mr. DeGraaf’s writings had this been 1894.

  35. A brief word from our sponsor: Warming sustains more total life and more diversity of life; cooling, less of each.
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    • Not if you are aquatic. More ice, more dust, more ocean fertilization and a more robust aquasphere.

    • You know the first edition of my Equatorial Cities Journal features megalopolises designed after the jellyfish.
      ===============

    • Aw, I’m just teasin’ the Polar Cities guy.
      ==============

    • And here I thought you had them at the ground terminus of a space elevator.

    • You can be Editor.
      ==========

    • So will it be like Analog, a mix of science fiction and fact articles? The actual space elevator notion is probably visionary, in that it’ll take an unlikely breakthrough in materials technology. However, there is a more feasible notion, that can be achieved with present-day materials: the Orbital ring. These could be made with existing materials, operate at a height of 1-200 Km (hundred, not thousand), and would be able to be used as runways for vehicles accelerating to and decelerating from escape velocity.

      As far as I can determine, the primary problem with such construction will be terrorism,just as with nuclear. Endless opportunities for action-adventure sci-fi/spy-fi.

  36. Andy Pattullo

    Very relevant to this nicely balanced discussion is a book by a fellow I am pleased to count a friend. The book is “The Economics of Happiness” by Mark Anielski.

  37. At a time when we are rich in stuff and poor in leisure and joy, when we are stretching the limits of our health and the limits of the planet, economic growth is a labor of Sisyphus.”

    We aren’t going to run out of the raw materials to build stuff. Material science will find new ways. Water is a big one, but recently Boeing I think announced they are in the process of trying to productize nano based water purification. Time will tell, but I believe.

    Regarding his comments on happiness, and joy, well, I suppose if only we all thought like this guy, and had his values, the world would be a better place. Those approaches have never failed.

  38. The DeGraaf essay uses the “money hasn’t made me happier” cornerstone whine of the leftoids

    Now ask this question: “So having *less* money would make you happier, then ?”

    Has anyone ever seen a survey based on this obvious question ? I haven’t

    • +1

      Perhaps Lewandowski or Cook (SkepticalScience) could be persuaded to conduct a survey with the question you suggest.

    • you are making a mistake even trying to relate the two. Why pick money?

  39. Why should humans do things that machines could do?

    At present we see poor countries taking jobs from the more wealthy. They can do that because their labor force will work for less pay. So in the wealthy countries we can only compete by higher productivity. The ultimate productivity is achieved when only raw materials go into factories, not people, and the finished product rolls out. The only people in the plant would be there to do routine maintenance of the machines. Complete automation.. There are several problems with tis model first, the poor countries can and do adopt it as well. Second, how do the rich countries raise enough taxes to keep the displaced workers in idleness?

    I don’t have much confidence that politicians, economists and lawyers can solve the problems raised by the above models.

  40. There are far more important environmental problems than global warming that are much more solvable:

    1) Malaria in Africa (million deaths/year, mostly children) can be stopped by spreading 55¢ worth of DDT around each home.
    2) The cost of purifying water has dropped dramatically the last five years to where, if the will existed, it would be very doable to bring pure water to every person on earth.

    It is immoral to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a speculative problem (given that the climate models have seriously over-forecast warming) when people by the millions are unnecessarily dying.

  41. Is economic growth sustainable? Is it desirable?

    It’s not only desirable, virtually everyone wants the benefits it delivers. If governments don’t deliver economic growth they can’t deliver the services people want and expect, so they get voted out. We demand economic growth, or at least we demand ever more and better services and to deliver those we have to have economic growth. I am surprised there is even a discussion on this subject.

    Virtually everyone wants more income and demands better Health and Education services, better roads, better communications and more gadgets, etc. The world cannot have all these continuing improvements to human well-being and continue lifting people out of poverty if we don’t have economic growth.

    Two growths are immutable: 1) economic growth will continue at the fastest rate we can sustain over the long term and 2) per capita energy consumption will continue to increase as it has been doing for the past 200,000 years.

    For the past 200,000 years or since man first started using fire our rate of energy use per capita has been in creasing at the rate of about:
    E = 1000*T^-0. 4
    Where:
    E = daily per capita energy consumption (MJ/d)
    T = years before present
    It strains credulity to believe that humans will suddenly curtail the rate of per capita energy growth that has been going on for the past 200,000 years just when we are here. It’s dreaming.

  42. In the not too distant past you didn’t get to answer leading questions posed by social scientists concerning your well-being . You were dead in childbirth, or childhood, or by typhus or…but really, nobody was asking, even if you weren’t dead.

    That was the problem before we were unhappy, alienated characters out of a Bergman movie or UN survey. 97% of us were too dead to be anything at all.

    • Both my grandfathers were coal miners, one died from it. My father was a furnace man for 8 years, shoveling coal and moving hot steel, he now has COPD. There are costs and benefits to doing things, as the average life gets longer and healthier, then some costs become greater.
      Instead of people like my father damaging his lungs, some poor Chinese chap has the job.

    • Any wonder ,mosomoso, that the characters in Ingmar Bergman’s
      950’s/60’s movies were so full of angst, what with Sweden’s long cold winters and short cool summers, brrrrrrrr.

    • Lost a digit, 1950’s/ 60’s/

      (950’s were probably pretty bad too. Lol.)

      • Some clerk complained of no rain in England for 3 years in the mid-900s. Seems it was worse than they thought, millennium coming up and all that.

        Me, I reckon he was just angling for a Nobel or an Emmy, that clerk. Happens around every millennium.

      • David Springer

        re; lost a digit

        Yes, you have be careful of frostbite in the long cold winters. I have female friend up north who lost a digit in the winter but it happened putting seed in bird feeder. The ladder slipped and when grabbed at something to stop from falling only one digit caught and it wasn’t enough so the friend the digit were soon parted. As it turns out a bit of surgery to reduce the gap left by the missing digit makes the hand look normal and, as her doctor pointed out, most people aren’t digit counters so they fail to notice.

        Oh wait… that’s not the kind of digit you were talking about.

        Nevermind.

    • A :Millennium Noble …yikes! Now that’s significant!

  43. Pekka Pirila,

    The quest for growth is essential for the survival of market based economies. That the quest really leads to growth is not as essential as some other parts of the economy may shrink more than growing parts grow.

    You are dreaming if you don’t recognise economic growth and energy consumption growth will continue for ever.

    So far, humans have been through these stages of development:
    • Primitive man
    • Hunting man
    • Primitive Agricultural man
    • Advanced Agricultural man
    • Industrial man
    • Technological man

    What’s the future? e.g.:
    • Mars man
    • Solar system man
    • Milky Way man
    • Universe man
    • Black hole man
    • Other universe man

    Clearly, energy consumption per capita and economic growth will grow on for ever.

    • There is a lot of energy in the universe, and I predict that man will not ultimately use all of it.
      =============

      • Kim,

        I suspect that projection is probably correct.

        I’d add for any readers who may be interested, Professor Barry Brook estimated there is sufficient recoverable (in future) nuclear fuel for fission energy to power the world at 30 TW for a billion years. 30 TW is about 2x the world’s current total rate of energy consumption from all energy sources. That’s not even including fusion energy. Here’s a rough estimate of the fusion energy resources on Earth, the Moon and the large gaseous planets in the Solar System: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/03/04/entering-space-energy-resources/#comment-214569

    • Peter Lang

      Clearly, energy consumption per capita and economic growth will grow on for ever.

      Agree 100% with your comment and conclusion.

      Global energy demand from all sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal or renewables apparently grew from around 240 TJ to 680 TJ from 1970 to 2010, while population grew from 3.69 to 6.92 billion
      https://www.google.com/search?q=global+energy+demand&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=8tUsU9LsJ4O52AXByoGQAg&ved=0CDkQsAQ&biw=1240&bih=696

      So the per capita increase in total energy consumption was around 50%.

      Based on CDIAC data, the per capita CO2 generation grew from 4.0 tons to 4.4 tons or by around 10% over this period.

      [From 4.05 GtC/year in 1970 at a population of 3.69 billion to 9.14 GtC/year in 2010 at a population of 6.92 billion.]

      So CO2 from fossil fuel usage grew significantly less than overall energy demand.

      In the industrially developed world (North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand) the per capita fossil fuel usage has actually decreased, as energy conservation measures are implemented, natural gas replaces coal, and other energy sources are exploited.

      But the growth is coming from the developing world (China, Brazil, India, etc.) – and over the course of this century it is likely to also come from the industrially undeveloped parts of the world as they build an energy infrastructure to lift themselves out of poverty.

      And (as you wrote) this will happen, no matter what John De Graaf speculates.

      Max

    • kim

      You are so right.

      There will be new sources of energy we haven’t even dreamed of.

      And to a large degree they will come from the sun (as did the energy in fossil fuels long ago) – not to discount nuclear fission or fusion.

      O sole mio!

      Max

    • Peter Lang wrote:
      Clearly, energy consumption per capita and economic growth will grow on for ever.

      No, it won’t. In fact, US per capita energy consumption peaked in April 1979, a5 12,135 Watts. It’s been lower ever since (and is now 16% lower).

      • Yes it will. Firstly, you clearly know nothing about the subject because you don’t even understand the difference between power an energy. You quoted energy in units of watts. Ignorance!!

        Secondly, the fact that US energy consumption goes down is irrelevant. It’s just one of 195 countries. I was talking about the world over the long term. The fact that US progress is being blocked at the moment by the anti-Progress, anti-enlightenment types like yourself, is just a blip on the long term trend. I recognise that progress has been slowed for the past 40 years or so by those who think they are Progressive, but that will pass and as I said, is irrelevant because the rest of the world is progressing while the developed countries have slowed.

      • David Springer

        “In fact, US per capita energy consumption peaked in April 1979, a5 12,135 Watts. It’s been lower ever since (and is now 16% lower).”

        Coincidently peak wages occured at the same time at $9.50/hr. It’s been lower ever since (and is now 16% lower).

        http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Real_Wages_1964-2004.gif

        Oh wait. Maybe it’s not a coincidence. I heard mention there’s a causal connection between increasing energy consumption and per capita measures of success. Maybe there’s something to that notion, eh?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Clearly, energy consumption per capita and economic growth will grow on for ever.”
      —–
      Ah, that old eternal dream, despite the logical impossibility of it. It requires the old infantile thinking– humans are the center of it all! Yet The
      Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter sit there, mocking your self-centerdness. Growth can’t continue forever, and someday humans will pass from this planet like the majority of species have already, and everything that humans have ever dreamed and done will return to the dust it came from and the Great Filter will preserve the eerie silence among the stars:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter

    • Peter Lang wrote:
      Firstly, you clearly know nothing about the subject because you don’t even understand the difference between power an energy. You quoted energy in units of watts. Ignorance!!

      The ignorance is yours. If you use E energy in an amount of time T, then your average energy use is E/T, which has units of power.

      • David Springer

        No, this is just another example of how any mowron with enough time and money can get a PhD. Even in physics. I wouldn’t have believed but I have the proof right here where a physics PhD is trying to defend saying peak energy consumption per capita was some number of Watts which is not the appropriate metric. This is not the metric you were looking for. You were looking for something like kilowatt hours per year or the more commonly used boe/c/yr (barrels of oil equivalent per capita per year).

        I’d have written off your using naked Watts as a careless mistake until you lamely tried to defend it. You’re a mowron with a doctorate in physics. Seeing is believing. Incredible.

    • Peter Lang wrote:
      Secondly, the fact that US energy consumption goes down is irrelevant. It’s just one of 195 countries. I was talking about the world over the long term.

      Still false. The world will, of course, eventually go the same way as the U.S., using energy ever more efficiently, finding no returns from using more, until it peaks at some point and then declines.

      The U.S. is simply on the front of the curve, a harbinger of the world.

    • Peter Lang wrote:
      The fact that US progress is being blocked at the moment by the anti-Progress, anti-enlightenment types like yourself, is just a blip on the long term trend.

      US per capita energy use peaked 39 YEARS AGO. During the Nixon administration.

      You can’t blame progressives for everything, for an infinite of time. Deal with it.

    • Appell

      Don’t try to squirm out of it by lying. That shows clearly what you are.

      You said:

      <blockquote:In fact, US per capita energy consumption peaked in April 1979, a5 12,135 Watts.

      That is “energy consumption peaked at 12,135 watts.”

      That is, you said energy And quoted a figure in units of power.

      By trying to defend your error instead of admitting it, you demonstrate you are not only ignorant but also dishonest and a fool.

    • You can’t blame progressives for everything, for an infinite of time. Deal with it.

      Irrelevant when energy consumption peaked in one country. The energy being avoided is being replaced in other countries as the progressives force work out of USA (and other developed countries) into the advancing economies. There is a trend over 200,000 years, only a fool would believe it will suddenly change just when he is on the planet.

      Believing that what USA does everyone else will do is ignorance squared. Rome was once big and rich once, but look at what happened to that.

      I accept the anti progress people, the anti enlightenment are retarding progress in USA and other developed countries. But other parts of the world are surging ahead.

      The Progressives have been very successful at slowing progress for the past 50 years or so. Deal with it.

    • Peter,
      You didn’t see the point of my comment. Read it more literally.

      The market economy is fundamentally based on competition, and on the fact that those offering something better win by growing. Stopping quest for growth makes the whole economic system fail. That’s not as fundamentally true for the outcome. Market economy can work even when overall growth does not happen.

      I didn’t say anything more on the desirability of growth or on the actual limits of growth.

      • Sorry, Pekka,

        I don’t understand what you are trying to say with these three sentences:

        Stopping quest for growth makes the whole economic system fail.

        That’s not as fundamentally true for the outcome.

        Market economy can work even when overall growth does not happen.

        How can you stop “quest for growth”? Legislate to to prevent it? Prohibit cheap energy or tax it heavily or mandate uncompetitive alternatives?

        What “outcome” are you referring to in this sentence “That’s not fundamentally true for the outcome”?

        Regarding the last sentence “Market economy can work even when overall growth does not happen.”

        Example please. Examples that run over long periods such as the past 50, 100, 1000 years and demonstrate your assertion is true for innate human behaviour over such time scales.

    • Robert I Ellison

      One of the roles for government is to manage interest rates with a view to maintain inflation between a modest 2 to 3%. Modest growth in the money supply and hopefully stable government budgets and modest tax rates feeds in market confidence. This tends to mobilise cash and growth is a foregone conclusion not a matter that governments control. Even with Keynesian fiscal policy.

  44. People seem to forget that the engine of growth (for a fixed population) is doing things more efficiently – i.e., doing the same (or more) with less. This has the side effect of increasing consumption, because doing the same with less means we have more of something (time/money/energy) to spend on other things.

    Unfortunately many people (like De Graaf) get this exactly backwards and think that increased consumption is the root cause of growth. This is a failure to properly understand Jevon’s paradox.

    The irony is that the only way to achieve effective “degrowth” or whatever they want to call it is to actually do things LESS efficiently and more wastefully. Of course degrowth also means we will have less time/money/energy to spend on things like healthcare, environment, etc.

    • Robert I Ellison

      I think they actually do get it – just don’t dare name it as a deliberate policy.

  45. I just KNEW it. Judith is in touch with her inner hippie:

    ” Overconsumption by some in the developed world does not seem to equate with happiness; rather it seems to be a way of ‘keeping score.’ ”

    And I completely agree with her. So many people seem to need that second home, that second $50 K car, and so on, and so on.

    • Yeah, John.

      Al Gore is a prime example. Then there are all the media darlings

      And there are others who consume like it’s going out of style while castigating the rest of us for our energy use.

  46. Real GDP is now 3 times what it was in 1960.

    When is it ever enough for us to use clean energy? Surely the people in 1960 thought, if I was only 3 times richer, I could certainly pay for clean energy and not have to pollute the Commons.

    And now here we are at that point, and most people don';t feel rich enough yet to pay 1-2% of their income for clean energy.

    So when does it start? In another 54 years? Will people then finally decide they are rich enough to pay for clean energy, and actually do it? Or will they likely feel just like most (not all) people do today, insisting they purchase the latest crap, whatever it is, and put off clean energy another 54 years?

    • Real GDP is now 3 times what it was in 1960.

      US seems 5 times what it was in 1960:
      http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/downchart_gs.php?year=1960_2014&view=1&expand=&units=k&fy=fy09&chart=&bar=1&stack=1&size=m&title=US%20Real%20GDP%20Chart&state=US&color=c&local=s

      “When is it ever enough for us to use clean energy? Surely the people in 1960 thought, if I was only 3 times richer, I could certainly pay for clean energy and not have to pollute the Commons.”

      Well pollution has certainly lowered since 1960s.
      One could expect China to reduce it’s levels of pollution, but considering
      it’s political structure, less reduction over time as compared to US- despite the technology which would enable it.

    • David:

      All you have to do is invent non-carbon energy production technology which is cheaper than coal, natural gas or oil.

      Then it will be enough.

      To bad no one has done that yet.

    • Nope, in the US it’s 3 times.

      Here’s real GDP:
      http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GDPC1

      Here’s the population:
      http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/POPTHM

      Divide one by the other.

    • All you have to do is invent non-carbon energy production technology which is cheaper than coal, natural gas or oil.

      They are already cheaper. You are confusing the number on your monthly bill with the cost — but they aren’t the same at all. Fossil fuels have extremely large negative externalities; generating power with fossil fuels creates more damage than value-added, according to Yale economist William Nordhaus in a 2011 paper:

      “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus, American Economic Review, 101(5): 1649–75 (2011).
      http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.5.1649

      The National Academy of Sciences estimates that fossil fuel use causes damages of at least $120 B/yr to health and the environment:

      “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use” National Research Council, 2010
      http://books.nap.edu/catalog/12794.html

    • gbaikie: Your link goes to real GDP, not per capita real GDP.

    • US energy intensity (Energy Intensity – Total Primary Energy Consumption per Dollar of GDP (Btu per Year 2005 U.S. Dollars (Market Exchange Rates)) has decreased since 1980 -2011 from 13,381.331 units to 7328.99216 units.

      This near halving (45%) is greater then the expected decrease of around 1% per annum ie Rosenfelds law.

      http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=92&pid=46&aid=2&cid=US,&syid=1980&eyid=2011&unit=BTUPUSDM

    • So what? That’s simply energy efficiency, which always takes place. Per capita carbon emissions are still very, very high. Since 1973 they have declined only from 22 t CO2/person/yr to, now, 17 t CO2/person/yr. That is not nearly good enough.

    • David:

      Until the “externalities” are priced in so they show up on the bill – oil, natural gas and coal are cheaper than solar and wind.

      It doesn’t matter what you say is more expensive – only what actually costs more money.

      That is why you want a carbon tax – to make carbon based energy actually cost more money.

      Personally, I don’t think your externalities will ever be priced into energy production. It is like trying to make people pay to breath, because they exhale CO2. The people will resist.

    • Until the “externalities” are priced in so they show up on the bill – oil, natural gas and coal are cheaper than solar and wind.

      No, they are not.

      Why do you think the number on your monthly bill is your only cost from fossil fuel energy production and consumption?

    • It is like trying to make people pay to breath, because they exhale CO2.

      Nope — respiration is carbon neutral, because the carbon you exhale comes from carbon you ingest from eating plants, or from the animals you eat who themselves eat plants.

      In any case, you only exhale about 0.9 kg CO2 per day — about 1/50th of what you emit from burning fossil fuels.

      The people will resist.

      In fact, there are many places in the world that already have a carbon tax.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax#Implementation

      Even ExxonMobile knows that free CO2 pollution is coming to an end, as the NY Times reported yesterday:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/business/in-a-shift-exxon-agrees-to-report-on-carbon-asset-risk.html

    • David Appell – I am paid by oil companies to eat food synthesized from petroleum. It’s quite tasty really.

    • I am paid by oil companies to eat food synthesized from petroleum.

      No — it is the rest of the world, and the future, who is subsidizing your fossil fuel waste. Because you’re too cheap to pay for it yourself.

    • David Appell

      Real GDP is now 3 times what it was in 1960.

      Yeah.

      And population is 2.3 times what it was in 1960.

      So per capita GDP is up.

      Good news, at least for those who got a slice of the pie, and thereby increased their quality of life and average life expectancy at birth.

      Guess that includes a lot of Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, but not too many Zimbabweans, Haitians or Sudanese.

      Oh well. Their time will come, too.

      (All God’s chillun…)

      Max

    • David Springer

      @the mowron with a PhD in physics

      “Surely the people in 1960 thought, if I was only 3 times richer, I could certainly pay for clean energy and not have to pollute the Commons.”

      This is conditioned on the preposition that CO2 is a pollutant.

      CO2 isn’t a pollutant except by fiat. The preposition is false and therefore polluting the commons with CO2 is an impossibility.

      Write that down.

      And thanks for playing!

    • David Springer

      That should be proposition, not preposition. If I had a PhD in English I’d be embarrassed. That would be like a PhD in physics using watts instead of kilowatt hours per year. ;-)

    • One little known rule of success is to preposition your proposition.
      ==============

    • David – you say that respiration is carbon neutral.

      Isn’t that also true of oil, natural gas and coal?

      Where did all those hydrocarbons come from in the first place?

      Organic matter – fueled by the sun.

      Breathing and cutting down trees is considered carbon neutral because the time frame for the cycle is short. But digging up coal and burning it just represents a carbon neutral cycle with a much longer time frame.

  47. The long term historical perspective is that there is no growth, until recently. Humans went for ages and the global population remained small, with an abundant unspoiled environment. You can supply many reasons why; I will just mention one: tribalism. Any extra people were used to attack other humans and the extras were removed by attacks. Over history those attacks grew. That human characteristic has not changed. Global warming catastrophe and killer asteroids might as well be fantasies; war is real and nuclear war is still possible. World peace is a dream.

    The best time to live? after a war, rebuilding is a great opportunity. Pity about those who died or lost everything.

    With the economy, there is a growth in the boom period, but when you look at it in the long term, including the inevitable busts, it doesn’t do so well, after inflation is taken into account.

    Carpe diem.

    • And you’re from what galaxy?

    • Is there a Miss Universe utopian galaxy I don’t know about?

      Put it this way — ALL progress (economic growth if you will) is due to technology. We started in some warm place, Africa I’m told. To live in any colder place than that, we had to invent fire, clothing, shelter, agriculture, and a few other things. Not even going back so far, think of how your ancestors lived a century ago compared to how you live now. Maybe they had horses and now you have cars. What enabled that? Lots of little and big ideas which make the production of steel and everything cheaper and better. Or higher productivity if you will. I will leave to someone else to support a claim that religion and politics helped too. If you want to discuss unequal distribution of wealth and justice, you might start there.

  48. “Trading productivity for leisure instead of stuff will allow us to reduce unemployment, while giving everyone time for social connection and recreation. Limits on working hours would give us time to restore neighborhoods, grow some of our own food, de-stress, and engage in our own favorite artistic, athletic, and cultural activities.”

    Yes, as we grow, it makes sense to “spend” part of our improved incomes on more leisure. But it is wrong to equate growth with “more stuff”. In the developed world, most of the growth that has taken place is growth in services, which is not more “stuff”. Growth of the service economy is inherently sustainable and welfare enhancing. We don’t have to fear it.

    For more, check out this review I wrote not long ago of a book called “How Much is Enough”: http://www.economonitor.com/dolanecon/2013/06/17/how-much-is-enough-why-do-we-work-so-much-and-enjoy-so-little-leisure/

  49. There is a libertarian-leaning show on Fox Business News called The Independents. If you are tired of both Left and Right moralizing, the show is a breath of fresh air. The host is Lisa Kennedy Montgomery and she is quite a character.

    http://video.foxbusiness.com/playlist/on-air-the-independents/

    Tonight the topic was “climate change.” On the show was Bill Nye the Schism Guy, someone from one of Soros’ organizations, some others, and Marc Morano. Morano mentioned our illustrious hostess as a skeptical climate scientist who testifies for Congress.

    • Oh yeah, the Soros guy apparently got confused and said 97% of climate science papers support global warming. I’m guessing he meant 97% of scientists – but whatever – 97% of whatever by any other name is proof we will fry.

    • More on this particular show. Ronald Bailey commented that when one of our ancestors declared the rustle in the grass was the wind but it was actually a lion, he was eaten. But one that declared the rustle to be a lion lived to mate another day. This was his explanation for climate alarmism. Makes sense to me :)

      From the article:
      Friday night editions of The Independents (9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. PT, with repeats three hours later, on Fox Business Network) are organized around a single theme, and tonight’s is about what happens when you attempt to apply cost-benefit analysis and the scientific method to environmental problems such as (but not limited to) the warming of the planet. Before we get to any of that, watch our interview from earlier this week with Wyoming welder Andy Johnson, who is getting threatened by the Environmental Protection Agency with fines of up to $75,000 per day for the sin of building a fully permitted duck pond on his property:

      Chilling stuff. Anyway, “Environmentally Challenged” starts off with a contentious interview about global warming impacts and policies with serial debater Bill Nye the Science Guy. Next comes a discussion about the science of the stuff with Climate Depot skeptic Marc Morano (once tabbed by Media Matters as the “Climate Change Misinformer of the Year”) and Center for American Progress Director of Climate Strategy Daniel J. Weiss, who refused to debate directly with Moreno, and chided us for airing his views.

      New York Times science writer and friend o’ Reason John Tierney is next with an update on his classic and controversial 1996 piece, “Recycling is garbage.” Followed by “skeptical environmentalist” and cost/benefit addict Bjorn Lomborg, who talks about comparatively inexpensive solutions to pressing environmental problems, and vice-versa. Energy economist Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute discusses fracking and future energy sources, and beloved Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey talks on one of his favorite themes: how things are actually getting better all the time.

      IMPORTANT NOTES: This show will re-air not just at midnight ET tonight, but also at 7 pm Sunday. On 7 pm Saturday you can watch a repeat of Wednesday’s fab libertarian red meat episode featuring Greg Gutfeld, Belle Knox, Julie Borowski, Greg Lukianoff, and more. Finally, I’ll be bumping this post in the 8 o’clock hour for ease of discovery by our time-sensitive commentariat.

      http://reason.com/blog/2014/03/21/tonight-on-the-independents-environmenta

    • jim 2

      If the guy really said “97% of climate science papers support global warming”, he was closer to right than if he had claimed that “97% of scientists support the IPCC position that most of the observed global warming is man-made and this could pose a potential future threat to humanity and our environment”.

      This is the claim often made, but it is based on a survey of the number of published papers (duh!) rather than the number of scientists.

      Since there are at least 335 scientists in related fields that have specifically gone on record that they do NOT support the IPCC CAGW claim (the 3%), that would mean that 10,000 scientists (the purported 97%) do support it. Not very likely, as I’m sure you agree, Jim.

      The whole “97%” claim is based on a lie, no matter how it is twisted.

      Max

    • 97% seems right to me. As someone who has followed this issue closely I can tell that number is about right because the number of scientists who accept humans are driving the climate is in a huge majority.

      It must be, for I hear such scientists speaking out all the time. The naysayers invariably are fake experts (eg some right wing blog trying desperately to elevate some meteorologist-hack to an expert on climate which they are not) or the few that aren’t (eg Roy Spencer) are in a tidy minority.

      So yes, 97% seems about right in terms of scientific opinion on the matter.

    • lolwot

      Sure, the 97% lie “seems about right to you”.

      Where are these 10,000 “qualified” scientists and what are their names?

      Max

  50. 134 comments on the subject of sustainable economics with no mention yet of Herman Daly? Fine, another day that I can skip Climate etc.

    • Robert I Ellison

      That’s because steady state economics is a nonsense – and if this is the best Pat can come up with he is very little loss.

  51. Robert I Ellison

    Whenever I hear the words limits to growth – I think not here and not yet. Not in the real world we have and not this century. Beyond that – the stars are the limit. Until then there is a need to maximize economic growth – and any fraction of a percent of growth that is not realized pushes marginal people over the edge. There are so many marginal people that the numbers are a horror story in the making. Water availability needs to increase by 30%, food by 50% and energy by 100% by the middle of the century. Energy is central to maximizing growth. Energy is a key input into almost every productive process – it underpins entire economies. Higher energy costs – with whatever rationale it is given – or self indulgent moral posturing indulged in – undermines global development.

    The true and rational marginal cost of abatement is very different. It involves a multi-gas strategy that includes black carbon, sulphur dioxide, methane, nitorous oxide and stratospheric ozone as a starting point. It includes social and environmental policy for development and conservation. The provision of health and education, safe water and sanitation, opening of free trade and promulgation of models of good government are the least cost ways to reducing population and environmental pressures.

  52. Michael Larkin

    At last, we get to the issue of morality. Time once was when that was tied in with orthodox religion, but with the waning of that, people have been busy attaching morality to humanistic values. It’s still religion, but deems itself not to be merely because it’s not (overtly, at any rate) based on sacred books.

    You can’t get rid of the underlying need for human beings to have a morality based on something, whether or not it’s the conventionally religious. And, all morality boils down to the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you). Is that in fact the central doctrine that some of the most vocal environmentalists practise? Obviously not: they’re overwhelmingly found in the affluent countries and have comparatively luxuriant lifestyles. Al Gore probably earns more every day than I have as total life savings. If he truly believed whereof he speaks, he’d have voluntarily eschewed his wealth and be a wandering mendicant. He certainly wouldn’t be charging what he does for delivering his lectures.

    Like all religions, that of ideological environmentalism is riven with hypocrisy. I suspect the real fear is not of millions of poor people dying, but of millions of them surviving and improving their lot so that they become a threat to their own comfortable lifestyles. And at its heart, it is a profoundly pessimistic world view. They can’t imagine a future in which all will prosper: how repugnant such an idea. Just think what a world would be like in which everyone had adequate food, shelter, healthcare and a modicum of excess to expend on luxury. Just think of the uppity billions, most of a shady complexion, who would no longer be there to doff their caps to their natural superiors.

    The enviro-hypocrites can’t possibly win, because human nature being what it is, those shady peoples will inexorably seek economic parity. They will do so regardless of the apparent availability of resources or the megaphoned threats of incipient Armageddon. And, all the signs are that as populations increase in economic well-being, they naturally become more environmentally aware and naturally lower their reproductive rates. Economic progress is the solution, not the problem.

    I’ll agree it is morally reprehensible to have a vast excess of money and/or political power (they often go together, after all) when there are so many poor people in the world. But the best solution is to give people the means to generate their own wealth. Few would prefer charity to the opportunity to create their own means of subsistence. Even fewer would accept the imposition of a guilt-trip when the imposers are far more guilty of profligacy, hypocrisy and often downright cruelty under the guise of paternalistic concern. It was the affluent with a sense of moral certainty who so effectively banned DDT and sentenced millions to death, and who as we speak are sentencing millions more to the same fate through the effect of outrageously misguided biofuel policies that are raising the price of food all over the world.

    Regardless, the developing countries will have their way and there’s nothing that can be done to stop them. It’s a question of whether one is an optimist or a pessimist: I myself am the former. In due course people of all nations will drag themselves out of poverty and indignity, and the angst-ridden pessimism of the excessively paternalistic will prove to be unjustified. We won’t find ourselves up to our necks in horse dung, because we’ll no longer be seeing the inevitability of travel by horse-driven carriage. I have faith in humanity’s–and nature’s in general–great capacity to evolve and adapt. To think otherwise is in my view hubristic.

  53. There is no stasis. Growth, or decline. Pick one.

  54. PS: population growth will switch over to decline about 2045, per the always-correct Low (Fertility) Band of the UN Population Survey.

  55. Yet if we don’t grow, how can we prevent unemployment as productivity increases? Trading productivity for leisure instead of stuff will allow us to reduce unemployment,

    This is unadulterated drivel. The more productive you are, the more you spend, hence the more employment you inspire.

    Limits on working hours would give us time to restore neighborhoods, grow some of our own food, de-stress, and engage in our own favorite artistic, athletic, and cultural activities.

    Anyone is free to limit their own working hours if they so wish. No need for Big Brother to force everyone to do it though.

    (And while more time for hobbies appeals, I must say I dread having to ever grow my own food, maintain my own garden, do repairs to my house or car, etc. Far too stressful and boring compared to going to work).

    • “Anyone is free to limit their own working hours if they so wish. No need for Big Brother to force everyone to do it though.”

      That’s not true. In plenty of jobs people are forced to follow a dogmatic adherence to a fixed working day of eg 9am to 5pm with a one hour lunch.

      Various companies that follow that did not choose it for any economic or logical reason, it was copied blindly from the status quo.

      As it’s a dogma why not change it across the board? Why not change it to 10am to 3pm with no lunch break? Who is to say that wouldn’t be much better?

      Of course the “economic religious” will always object to any standardized increase in leisure time. Supposedly people can’t afford to work one hour less than people did 30 years ago because…..???

      If the dogma was instead 9am to 9pm with one hour lunch break, you can bet the economic religious would be insisting THAT was absolutely necessary and any attempt to reduce that would destroy the economy.

      It’s all a big con. One thing you didn’t see during the economic downturn was anyone suggesting that everyone work an extra 15 minutes each day to save the economy. Because deep down even the economy religious don’t really believe that the economy works as they claim.

    • Science has traveled far since 1966, we all can see now just how sustainability is going to work for everybody.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society

    • nottawa rafter

      lol

      Your example of 10am to 3pm has an obvious answer. As an employer, who wants to incur double fringe benefits costs for an 8 hour level of production. Some of these decisions are economically driven.

      I know employees who start their day at nearly all hours of the day. This is especially true in the service sector. During WWII, many employers had 4 shifts of 6 hours each.

    • Dung caked walls don’t reek,
      Sudden tetanic death strikes.
      Random, it’s God’s will.
      =================

    • Various companies that follow that ( ie 9-5 work day ) did not choose it for any economic or logical reason, it was copied blindly from the status quo.

      So business people focussed on profit, just blindly make decisions that have consequences on their profits? Hardly. That’s just blind dogma; I fear you’ve fallen into the ranks of the “economic religious” you mention.

  56. alan butters

    The fundamental issue underlying growth v sustainability is the competitive nature of ourselves and hence our economies. Historically, competition has delivered fabulous advances and freedom. However, now, competition drives extremely uneven productivity gains that is giving rise to potentially unmanageable economic stratification. This must be managed globally if we are not to lose that hard won freedom

  57. The need for economic growth is a dogma. You can’t grow a false economy.

  58. Berényi Péter

    The Global Footprint Network finds that we already use far more resources and produce more waste than is sustainable, if by “sustainable” we mean replicable for any meaningful amount of time.

    Why anyone would want to “sustain” current conditions for “any meaningful amount of time” is beyond me. A tremendous wealth of scientific knowledge was accumulated during the past 2 centuries, not a tiny fraction of which is implemented in technology yet. Once we are past the singularity, we can start thinking about a future path that is sustainable for millions of years. Until then it would be like stopping dead in the middle of a great leap across a bottomless pit.

    With the advent of molecular nanotechnology, for example, especially with programmable self replicating general purpose molecular assemblers carbon, with its marvellous chemical versatility, will become the default building material for almost anything, while rate of economic growth, potentially up to 40% per day will no longer be a limiting issue. There is a readily available carbon source in the atmosphere in the form of CO₂, therefore it makes sense to preload it as much as possible, otherwise a sudden catastrophic carbon dioxide depletion could occur as soon as the technology is introduced, which could destroy plant life in a short timeframe all over the globe. One could replenish it from limestone deposits at will, of course, but too much lime milk released to the environment could induce dangerous ocean basification.

    The point is we are right in the middle of the greatest transition in human history, so it is not like everyone is going to adopt current American lifestyle, even they would do something completely different.

    Economic growth increases happiness when countries are poor, but these benefits level off as they grow beyond a modest level of comfort. The United States is the best example of this. Per capita income has tripled since the 1950s, but happiness levels have been flat or falling, according to yearly surveys conducted by Gallup.

    BS. Most of that growth went to the top 1%, which does not contribute much to “average happiness”. The lower 80% is definitely struggling.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Once we are past the singularity, we can start thinking about a future path that is sustainable for millions of years.”

      Except of course if the singularity is associated with The Great Filter:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter

      Both are of course only theories, but what is not a theory is the Fermi Paradox. Let’s remember that we’d scarcely recognize our ancestors from millions of years ago. What will carry on as human or a human created artificial life form (if any thing at all) millions of years from now would probably not be recognizable as human.

    • Berényi Péter

      @R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      Except of course if the singularity is associated with The Great Filter

      It has barely anything to do with the current topic, but the Fermi paradox is a tough one indeed. Type III civilizations, if any exists in the visible universe, would surely be detectable using current technology as luminous infrared galaxies with no star formation whatsoever, due to Dyson swarms around most of its stars and a strong dislike for short lived massive stars emitting lethal radiation and exploding spectacularly at the end of their life cycle. None was found so far.

      Therefore some kind of Great Filter certainly exists. It should be an effective one, because there are hundreds of billion galaxies out there. I can see grave dangers at any stage of evolution, but all later stages are understood well enough to exclude the existence of a filter that would work at that extreme degree of efficiency. The only exception is the very first stage, abiogenezis, which is not understood at all. However, there is strong indication that the lower bound of Kolmogorov complexity for any evolvable replicator is quite high, so the initial threshold is next to insurmountable. Before this threshold is crossed, Darwinian evolution does not offer any help whatsoever in improving probability.

      The existence of terrestrial life is not a valid argument against it, because we know nothing about the unconditional probability of abiogenesis, it can be arbitrarily small. The only thing we know is a conditional probability, that is, life emerged somehow on Earth provided we consider the issue, the value of that conditional probability being exactly one. Which tells us nothing about the original question.

      There is still a small chance of course that peaceful luminous infrared galaxies will be found sooner or later, quite unlike the current violent ones, but they are not abundant for sure.

      Anyway, there is nothing to be gained by “sustainability” at this stage. While running, no single posture is sustainable for any length of time. If you try to stop mid step, all you get is falling to your face hard.

      As for lifestyle or body plan of our progeny, that’s an issue that belongs to them, I would not even dare to offer advice beyond the age old wisdom of being better off with love than with hate.

  59. I thought you had gotten that new job Ben.

  60. My observed relationship, above, that

    >>Economy is to commerce as climate is to weather

    is sufficient for Post Modern Scientists to set off building a couple of models. That’s because in PMS, e.g., IPCC, scientific models needn’t actually work.

    An economy is measured by and estimated from the statistics of commerce as climate depends on the statistics of weather. But commerce is no more the cause of an economy than weather is the cause of climate.

    The Modern Scientist is concerned with valid, nontrivial predictions, which require Cause & Effect. So a tiered relationship respecting the flow from cause to effect is

    • Government -> economy -> commerce: Sun -> climate -> weather.

  61. R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

    Probably more value in this TED talk on growth and than than the sum of all posts here:

  62. Robert I Ellison

    So we have everything from singularities in artificial intelligence to hyper-exponential growth in cities to sigmoid growth in companies to questions of where the aliens are – if there are perhaps 50 intelligent species in the past and future history of the galaxy.

    What matters is tomorrow and the first steps of humanity towards a bright future and how that may be engineered. What values do we hang on to? What technologies are needed? What social institutions? What songs? In the end we have a vision of the promise and beauty of humanity – or we have a hell of our own making. This century humanity will rise or fall and the choice is collectively ours.

    I quoted earlier William Blake’s 1793 castigation of America and rebellion. A world of fiery demons and dragons consuming the proper order of things. Quite by accident I had Blade Runner in a window on my laptop. I wondered at the opening sequence and the gases being burnt off into the atmosphere a brooding city. What a waste of energy I thought – and how could a future civilization go down that track?

    ‘Fiery the Angels rose, & as they rose deep thunder roll’d
    Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc’

    Blake is quoted in the movie which is of course a dystopian tale of technology and humanity going in the wrong direction. There is another direction of peace and plenty – the shining city on the hill the dream of which is as old as the hills.

    ’14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’ Matthew 5

    To reference yet another movie – fear of the future is the enemy.

  63. When I think of sustainable growth, real or tangible growth comes to mind. Such growth is generated by increased productivity and innovation. So much of the “growth” we experience is artificially generated by politicians manipulating money supplies and/or economic statistics which creates longer-term issues with business cycles and economic realities like inflation. Real growth needs an underlying stability to the system, educated/well-informed people and freedom for the individual to take the actions required to fulfill their potential. Unfortunately, the American voter of today has shown a big talent for electing self-serving politicians who are tightly networked with the “private” financial markets. Until this condition changes, our economy will be subject to growth that is unreal and serve mostly to jerk the economy around.
    If the decision was made to stop growing an economy, how would that be managed other than stopping people from their natural desire to be productive or to take away the resources nongovernmental entities already own. What about directing the incremental wealth growth creates to underdeveloped countries. such is next to impossible as history has shown. There is simply too much corruption in all governments to allow it. Bottom line it is the informed individual directing his money to another informed individual who knows how to use it along with associated freedoms that is necessary here. Obviously, much groundwork to do here, but as a wise man once said: “There are no shortcuts.”

  64. Share prices should be covered by real assets, like oil in the ground. Share prices of service companies like google and facebook are grossly inflated IMHO.

    • Hans Erren
      Share prices should be covered by real assets, like oil in the ground. Share prices of service companies like google and facebook are grossly inflated IMHO.

      So services aren’t “real” ?
      Tell that to your dentist next time you see him. Suggest that he acquire some oil in the ground so he can finally have some real value.

      And you’ve shorted the google and facebook shares have you?

  65. After midnight last night, Australia’s publically owned and Left biased ABC showed a presentation on “Limits to Growth” by Bjorn Lomborg
    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2014/03/14/3962766.htm

    The fact it was shown on ABC is interesting in itself. It demonstrates that even ABC, who have been one of the promoters for over 20 years of extremist beliefs in catastrophic climate change, strong advocates of renewable energy and extreme anti-nuclear zealots are being forced to show some balance, even if they did so by showing this presentation after midnight. And even if they couldn’t resist stating their prejudice in the title and intro:
    Bjorn Lomborg: Limits to Growth – Still Wrong, Still Influential
    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2014/03/14/3962766.htm

  66. To maintain any level of pensions and social security retirement the economy has to grow. It is the growth in government benefits and power that is the truly “unsustainable.” growth.

    • @ buck smith

      As the beneficiary of three different government Ponzi schemes, I should maybe not being the one to remind the younger folks that Ponzi schemes collapse. Not CAN collapse, not SOMETIMES collapse. Collapse.

      Government Ponzis can last longer than private ones, because the government can inflate the currency (and does) and they have guns (and know how to use them). They can delay, but not avoid, the inevitable.

  67. patmcguinness

    Economic growth is not only sustainable, but economic improvements that lead to doing more with less are both desirable and indeed necessary for sustainable prosperity.

    A good example is the energy inputs per $ of GDP. Or for that matter, the amount of GDP per ton of CO2 emitted. This was mentioned: “US energy intensity (Energy Intensity – Total Primary Energy Consumption per Dollar of GDP (Btu per Year 2005 U.S. Dollars (Market Exchange Rates)) has decreased since 1980 -2011 from 13,381.331 units to 7328.99216 units.”

    This is the tip of the iceberg, material-speaking. Computers are 1 million more times powerful, and use less energy per computation. That computing power drives efficiency up in all manner of industries.

    We continue to create more value from less natural resources each year. The world cannot replicate the US of today, but by 2050, could replicate the sustainable US of 2050.

    Innovation and economic growth is our path to sustainability. Stagnation would be the main impediment.

  68. Why would anyone choose happiness, an individual’s psychological state, as the goal of a a sociological level process i.e. societal development. The psychological limits on the relationship between wealth and happiness have long been charted. Or why hasn’t everyone quit working when they have attained their $68,000 for the year. Why not choose say, average physical well being or longevity. Oh wait a minute, that would not support the thesis that we have long since passed our societal goal and are striving senselessly on. And yes something like longevity is a Sisyphian labor i.e. their is no end to its possible improvement.

  69. Fernando Leanme

    Most people alive today or born in the next 1000 years won’t come close to the USA’s standard of living today. Economic growth is possible on a per capita basis but the number of total heads will have to come down. We had better figure a way to get cheaper energy to get there. But on the political front things sure look grim, I got the sense there will be more north Koreas and Cubas than Norways and Costa Ricas. “They”, who ever they will be will have better methods to distort what’s real and control humanity’s mind. This worries me much more than sea level rise.

  70. You will never see third world countries reach our level of living standards. That’s because they arnt core countries that allow for private ownership. It is private ownership, the ability to accumulate what ever “stuff” you want freely that allows countries to be modern societies. Limit people’s ability to obtain stuff as they see fit makes people poorer.

    Will this all come to an end some day? Likely, no matter what humans do we will exceed the carrying capacity. Oil will run out, no matter what we do. WE can be smart, but the socialists running the world arnt smart. They would rather we all be poor trying to power ourselves with wind turbines than to move into the next logical step in our energy production — Thorium reactors.

    So the end is coming, and it isnt because of dwindling resources. Its because of socialisms deficit financing and accumulated debt. Not much longer until we hit the fiscal brick wall. in the mean time, keep the party going!

  71. godsintimateaquaintance

    Humans are not in tune with nature or themselves. Humans are an invasive species in most respects now more than ever and have no control as to their outcomes. Whether this is by nature or choice matters not anymore. One can only weep for such a ill-destined humanity.