Towards a climate change scenario that is ecologically sustainable, fair, and welfare-increasing

Dr Phil Lawn visited recently from Flinders University and gave a lecture at UWA. The audio-video recording of the lecture can be found here, and the abstract of his talk is shown below.

The lecture slides can be downloaded here, although they are also visible while listening to the lecture online.

In an earlier post on the limits of economic growth, Phil provided some detailed background to his approach.


To resolve the climate change dilemma, many believe that a global emissions protocol must be negotiated with the aim of stabilising greenhouse gases at no more than 450 parts-per-million (ppm) of CO2-equivalent. But more is required than this to deal with climate change and to promote the broader goal of sustainable development. It will also be necessary to:

  • initially stabilise the human population at no more than 8 billion, and eventually reduce population numbers further;
  • reduce the rate of resource use so it is again within the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity (resource use currently exceeds biocapacity by around 40%);
  • improve the distribution of income and wealth between and within nations;
  • make the transition from a growth-based economy to a qualitatively-improving steady-state economy.

High-income countries will need to make this transition immediately, which will mean having to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce per capita resource consumption. Low-income countries will need a further phase of growth, albeit growth that is as green, equitable, and efficient as possible. This will mean that low-income countries will need to enjoy some increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the short-term, but will need to rapidly stabilise their population growth. Eventually low-income countries will also need to make the transition to a qualitatively-improving steady-state economy. Towards the end of the century, and barring wars and political factors, it should be possible to have everyone enjoying a per capita GDP of around $15,000 (at 2004 prices) – an outcome that would be ecologically sustainable, fair, and welfare-improving.