Limits to Growth?
By Arnold Kling
Bjorn Lomborg and Olivier Rubin have an article that concisely challenges the thesis that environmental limits to growth are binding.
[the limits-to-growth argument’s] real weakness is the underlying assumption that planet Earth has finite, essential resources (such as oil, water, and grain) for which there are no substitutes. Few resources have turned out to be essential, since the demand for and the availability of the Earth’s resources adjust over time in accordance with technological progress and economic development. In photography, for instance, silver is now dispensable due to digitalization. In telecommunications, silicon fibers have replaced copper wires. Renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) are becoming a viable alternative to fossil fuels…
In short, there is no natural law dictating an exponential mounting pressure on Earth’s ecological resources. The limit of sustainability is not a static ceiling but is formed and expanded by human innovation and technological progress. This exponential dynamic seems to have outpaced any pressure on the limit. Thus, perhaps the most problematic assumption is the omission of technological progress and human innovation from the model. Only by ignoring these strong dynamic forces can one posit a fixed limit to growth.
For Discussion. Going forward, what resources are likely to increase in price, and what resources are likely to decrease in price?