Can Endless Economic Growth Continue?

The last few months have seen incredible shifts in power. These shifts have related to finance (now governments own parts or all of most big banks), to energy (as the price of oil has dropped significantly) and to individuals (as jobs are vanishing) - amongst others.

There can be no doubt that as governments have taken on huge additional borrowing on top of what was already huge borrowing, taxes must somehow rise to pay the interest bills - if not to actually repay the debt.

Of course, the credit markets still appear to be largely blocked as few banks want to lend money to anyone or anything else. Trust in financial organisations has left the building. The longer this remains, the harder it will be for small companies to fund expansion and grow.

This presumes that they have markets to grow in. With consumer spending in such trouble around the world and property prices falling, the average consumer is loaded up with debt and only assets that are falling in value to hold against it.

These same consumers have seen the value of their retirement funds plummet. If you were planning to retire in 2009, 2010 or any time in the next decade, it seems like that might suddenly be becoming a pipe-dream. Almost all stock market based assets have fallen massively.

But these things are all now. The future will be better. Won’t it?

What if there are reasons to suggest that the days of endless growth are over?

In December 2009, the UN Climate Conference will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark. Any treaty that is agreed - and there is no guarantee that anything will be agreed - will be a replacement to Kyoto.

To meet the types of reductions in carbon emissions that will be required to avert human extinction through climate problems, all countries will need to reduce their use of carbon. The good times are over. Now it will be hard work for us all from here on.

The highest polluters - the United States - is likely to need to cut emissions by plus or minus 90% by 2050. Yes, you read that correctly - 90%.

This does not just relate to targets set by government that we all ignore. This does not relate to corporations that print too many documents and leave the lights on too long. This will relate to us all.

Imagine what a 90% cut in emissions would mean to your lifestyle. The daily commute to work will need to change. When you have heating or air-conditioning on at home will need to change. Your daily newspaper is unsustainable. You will need to walk everywhere. You will need to recycle everything. Food may become more scarce and the range we have today will certainly be reduced. Flights to foreign destinations will literally “cost the earth”.

The good times will be over and we will all be paying the price.

In the face of this coming reduction in everything, can economic growth continue unfettered? There will be many businesses that simply cannot survive - their products will require too much energy.

There will of course be winners. But they will be far fewer than the losers.

Are you starting to prepare yet?

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