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Do we need degrowth? Can we save the climate while growing the economy?

There’s a common intuition that says we can either have a healthy climate, or a growing economy, but not both.

Economic activity, so long as it’s powered by fossil fuels — which still provides about 80 percent of the world’s energy — creates greenhouse gas emissions. So it seems to follow that if we want to emit fewer greenhouse gasses, we’re going to have to sacrifice some economic growth, even though raising average income levels is a key part of reducing poverty.

This creates a horrible dilemma, because fighting climate change and fighting poverty are both hugely important goals. As developing countries are making clear at the ongoing COP27 climate summit in Egypt, we really don’t want to shortchange either one.

Fortunately, we may not have to.

The evidence comes from more than 30 countries that have already achieved what’s known as “absolute decoupling.” That means they’ve figured out how to reduce…

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