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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A series of new articles and studies illustrate the growing struggle over "degrowth" — the argument by some environmentalists that we must shrink and rebalance the global economy to avoid climate catastrophe.

Why it matters: Degrowth is a radical solution for what can feel like a radical problem, but it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that if it could ever be implemented, degrowth would be a cure worse than the disease.

What's happening: In a smart piece for Vox's Future Perfect vertical earlier this week, Kelsey Piper meticulously picked apart some of the leading arguments for degrowth.

  • Degrowth — which calls for accepting shrinking GDP as a prerequisite to saving the planet — is "a bold, even romantic vision," Piper writes. "But there are two problems with it: It doesn’t add up — and it would be nearly impossible to implement."

By the numbers: Contrary to the arguments of degrowthers that it's impossible to keep economies growing while reducing carbon emissions, Piper notes that 32 countries — including the U.S. — have achieved absolute decoupling, reducing carbon emissions even as GDP keeps rising.

  • And while degrowthers want industrialized economies to take the lead in shrinking GDP, Piper argues that degrowth "would do nothing about the bulk of emissions, which are occurring in developing countries" that need to keep growing fast to pull their citizens out of poverty.

The other side: Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist and a leading proponent of degrowth, co-authored a paper published this week arguing that further growth in already rich countries isn't necessary for social progress and that new climate models are needed to map out a post-growth world.

  • Continued growth while combatting climate change requires betting on "speculative and risky" technologies, like direct air carbon capture, that may never be feasible, Hickel and his co-authors write.

The bottom line: Technofixes alone, as I write above, won't be enough to save us.

  • But degrowth requires relying on radical political changes that are at least as speculative and risky as many of those technofixes, and which seem even less likely to pan out.

Go deeper: How stalling growth hurts the planet

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Aug 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

How economic growth can endure as population growth slows

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

In a new working paper, Stanford economist Charles Jones sets out to answer a simple question: Why over the past 150 years has GDP per person in the U.S. increased exponentially at a relatively stable rate of around 2% per year?

The big picture: Growth comes from ideas and ideas come from people — and new population projections suggest the U.S. will have fewer of those in the future.

Updated 22 mins ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and planned to travel to another destination afterward when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

57 mins ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.