In its March report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that there is a “rapidly closing window of opportunity” to secure a livable and sustainable future for all. To achieve this and to prevent a catastrophic “hothouse earth” scenario of extreme warming and sea-level rise, “rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are necessary,” the report said.
While these statements reflect scientific consensus, the question of what this much-needed “system transition” should look like remains hotly contested. There is an increasingly divisive debate about whether “green growth” or overcoming the growth paradigm altogether is the better way to achieve rapid emissions reductions and a more livable world.
Green growth, which is currently the most accepted path to a sustainable future, posits that economic output can continue to expand in a sustainable way by shifting to renewable energy and circular economies. Most governments around the world that recognize the need for climate action promote economic growth through green investment, decarbonized industrial policies and sustainable business practices. But there is growing doubt about whether these strategies will be enough to avert climate disaster. As climate activist Greta Thunberg famously said at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in 2019, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”