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Econ 131 lecture 13

Econ 131 lecture 13 - Schedule Today Chapter 11...

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Schedule Today Chapter 11, sustainability Next week: Valuing the environment, and considering natural resource use (Chapters 6-7) Sustainability UNESCO: “Each generation should leave water, air, and soil resources as pure and unpolluted as when it came on earth... Each generation should leave undiminished all the species of animals it found existing on earth.” Bruntland Commission: “...meet the needs of [present generations] without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs .” Solow: Sustainability means giving each successive generation the capacity to enjoy the same quality of life as the preceding one.
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Sustainability More generally: Defines our obligation to the future If we use natural capital, we should probably replace it with something else they would like (physical capital, knowledge, art?) What types of capital will future generations want the most? We will make (potentially very large) mistakes by not knowing their preferences or technologies Limits to Growth Collection of books and papers in the 1970’s suggested hard limits on economic growth or population Idea that we are not living sustainably Traces back to the work of Malthus and Ricardo in the 1800’s Two key assumptions generate the limits No substitution between inputs to production No technological change
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Cause for Optimism? Economists usually agree that both assumptions are false Substitution exists between most forms of natural and physical capital Technological progress has (at least historically) allowed us to use natural capital with ever-increasing efficiency Any Truly Essential Inputs? If there is some resource that has no substitute in human welfare, using it cannot be sustainable Clean, fresh water? Desalination plant scheduled to come online in Carlsbad in 2012 The existence of animal species? Hard to imagine the substitutes, but it could be argued that people are better off now than 100 years ago, even though many species have been driven to extinction
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The Pace of Technological Change Technological change has historically outpaced the drag
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