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Efficiency, sufficiency, growth: which way to a low carbon society?

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  • UserDr Julia Steinberger, Lecturer in Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds
  • ClockTuesday 10 May 2011, 17:30-19:00
  • HouseMill Lane Lecture Room 9.

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How much carbon do we need to emit to live well? What universal living standards can we look forward to in future decades, if we have to drastically reduce carbon emissions? This presentation focuses on the interdependencies of the global economy, resource use and human development from the perspectives of efficiency, sufficiency and growth. Most strategies for reducing the carbon and resource dependence of modern societies rely upon efficiency. However, in the past, efficiency improvements have rarely resulted in decreases in the physical scale of the economy. In contrast, the sufficiency perspective, prioritizing basic human needs, is rarely considered, although it offers crucial insights into the range of possible human futures. Both the efficiency and sufficiency approaches have implications for economic growth. Depending on policy priorities, a more or less optimistic future may be possible.

Short bio: Julia Steinberger is interested in quantifying the current and historical linkages between resource use and socioeconomic parameters, and identifying alternative development pathways to guide the necessary transition to a low carbon society. She obtained her PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after which she started working in industrial ecology first at the University of Lausanne, then at the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna, and now at the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds, where she is a lecturer in ecological economics.

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