Some climate-focused economists see the COVID-19 pandemic as an unwitting experiment for a radical strategy to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The concept is called “degrowth.” It involves a planned slowdown of economic sectors that emit large amounts of global carbon dioxide. Those sectors would scale down until the broader economy meets “sustainable emissions levels,” advancing long-term health and environmental goals.

“Stopping the spread of coronavirus is paramount, but climate action must also continue. And we can draw many lessons and opportunities from the current health crisis when tackling planetary warming,” Natasha Chassagne of the University of Tasmania wrote in The Conversation, a publishing portal for academics.

“The global response to the coronavirus crisis shows that governments can take immediate, radical emergency measures, which go beyond purely economic concerns to protect the well-being of all,” Chassagne wrote, adding that there are “practical lessons and opportunities we can take away from the coronavirus emergency.”

Proponents of the controversial idea, which has found traction mostly outside the United States, stress that “degrowth” involves a purposeful contraction of high-emitting sectors while growing other sectors that produce low or zero emissions. The COVID-19 pandemic, by contrast, is an unplanned crisis that has sent the entire global economy into a tailspin.

“Nobody advocates for such unplanned economic contraction because that has all sorts of negative social effects, including rising unemployment, stress, and poverty. So we must never confuse degrowth with recession,” Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s Office for Environmental Programs, wrote in a column published by Resilience.org.

Read full article here.

Daniel Cusick – Climatewire – March 31, 2020.

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