Redressing the Structural Imbalance

  • Edward B. Barbier
Chapter

Abstract

The world economy today is facing two major threats: increasing environmental degradation and a growing gap between rich and poor. Drawing on historical and contemporary evidence, this book has argued that these two threats are symptomatic of a growing structural imbalance in all economies, which is how nature is exploited to create wealth, and how this wealth is distributed among the population. The root of this imbalance is that natural capital is underpriced, and hence overly exploited, whereas human capital is insufficient to meet demand, thus encouraging wealth inequality.

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  1. 1.
    See, for example, Jeremy Rifkin (2011) The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Rifkin’s positive view of innovation is based on what he calls the “five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution”: (1) shifting to renewable energy; (2) transforming the building stock of every continent into micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on-site; (3) deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies; (4) using Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing inter-grid that interacts in a decentralized way just like the internet; and (5) transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity on a smart, continental, interactive power grid.Google Scholar
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    See Edward B. Barbier (2014) “Is Green Growth Relevant for Poor Economies?”, Keynote Address, 3rd International Conference: Environment and Natural Resources Management in Developing and Transition Economies, CERDI, Clermont-Ferrand, France: Clermont University, 8–10 October.Google Scholar
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    Even the role of renewable energy technologies in ending the problem of global energy poverty is not straightforward. According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2010) Energy for a Sustainable Future: The Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, Summary Report and Recommendations. New York: UNDP, more than 1.5 billion people live without access to electricity, another billion have only unreliable electricity, and nearly half the world’s population depends on traditional biomass fuels for cooking and heating.Google Scholar
  29. J. Rogelj, D. L. McCollum and K. Riahi (2013) “The UN’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative is compatible with a warming limit of 2°C”, Nature Climate Change, 3: 545–551, examined the compatibility of achieving three global energy objectives by 2030: providing reliable access to electricity or clean fuels for cooking, or both, to three billion poor people currently without such access; doubling the share of renewable energy in final energy, from 15% to 30%; and doubling the rate of energy efficiency in all economies. The analysis found that ensuring universal access to modern energy services was not only attainable with overall climate mitigation strategies for limiting global warming to 2°C but also was fully consistent with the 2030 energy efficiency objective. The only goal not achieved was for renewable energy, which comprised just 28% of final energy by 2030, because energy access for cooking and heating is provided mainly by switching from biomass to low-pollution fossil fuel alternatives rather than renewables. One also has to be careful in assuming that solar and other renewable energy sources are more financially feasible for the rural poor in remote areas.Google Scholar
  30. According to C. E. Casillas and D. M. Kammen (2010) “The Energy-Poverty-Climate Nexus”, Science, 330: 1181–1182, the use of communitylevel marginal abatement cost curves in rural Nicaragua indicates that the options for replacing off-grid diesel generation of electricity, which is the main method of expanding rural energy services, can vary considerably in cost. For example, solar photovoltaic electricity would cost villagers over $300 per tCO2/year conserved, whereas energy efficiency measures, such as meter installation, compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and more effective public lighting, actually save households almost $400 per tCO 2/year mitigated.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Edward B. Barbier 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward B. Barbier
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WyomingUSA

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