On energy transitions and ecological transition


Jorge Riechmann

notable editorial in Nature, in March 2022, vindicates the 1972 study The Limits to Growth (the first of the reports to the Club of Rome) and notes that "although there is now a consensus on the irreversible effects of human activities on the environment, researchers disagree on solutions, especially if these involve slowing economic growth. This disagreement prevents action. It is time for researchers to put an end to their debate. The world needs them to focus on the larger goals of halting catastrophic environmental destruction and improving well-being". The Nature editorial goes on to argue that the debate today, having accepted the existence of biophysical limits to growth, centres on two main positions, green growth versus degrowth, and that they should make an effort to dialogue with each other.

This is a central debate, no doubt, which is modulated and reiterated at different levels. To come closer to home: a friend (and fellow activist in Ecologistas en Acción) told me in June 2022 that the debate on the ecological transition (and the energy transition in particular) is extraordinarily complicated.

It also divides us within the environmental movements themselves. "The question is whether we can get to where we want to be (a society that respects biophysical limits) by starting from an industrialised system, modifying it and reducing it, or whether we can do it directly. And we do not seem to have much time for either option. The approach is the same as in the Nature editorial.

I would say that the situation in the third decade of the third millennium is that tragic: we cannot avoid a hellish climate without an emergency economic contraction (in the Global North), rushing out of capitalist relations of production. And it is doubtful, of course, that such a transformation is on our horizon… But let us take it one step at a time.


For a full read of this brief, click here or on the picture to download the pdf file.


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