Essay Title

Economic Growth and its Contribution to Climate Change: A Sustainable Development Perspective

In a world where economic growth propels progress, the environment often bears the brunt of our ambitions. As the danger of climate change grows more prominent than ever, we must confront this severe crisis head-on. World leaders, recognizing the urgency of the situation, have united at the United Nations Assembly, prepared to forge a path towards a sustainable future. Nevertheless, let us pause for a moment and visualize the once pristine Arctic ice, now caught in the clutches of resource battles and territorial disputes. Startling scientific estimates reveal that in just the past four decades, the summer sea ice volume in the Arctic has plummeted by over 50%. This striking reality serves as a chilling reminder that our actions, whether deliberate or unintentional, possess the power to reshape the destiny of our planet.  

 

Various studies have demonstrated a strong connection between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. Economic growth heavily relies on consuming natural resources and energy, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Industrial activities, transportation, and burning fossil fuels (80 percent of the global energy mix) have been claimed to significantly contribute to these emissions, as shown by Wolff et al. (2021). As economies expand, there is gradually an increase in energy consumption, industrial production, and transportation, leading to higher emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. This increase in carbon dioxide emissions has detrimental effects on our environment and society. The impact of climate change, as outlined in the UN’s report on causes and effects, emphasizes the importance of addressing this issue. 

 

The United Nations (2022) has created The 13 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), precisely the 13th sustainable goal called “Climate Action,” in response to this issue. It includes five sub-targets and indicators and highlights the need to battle its detrimental effects, adapt to climate change impacts, and promote sustainable practices. However, economic development frequently comes before sustainability, challenging reaching this goal. For instance, short-term profits without considering ecological boundaries can harm the climate system detrimentally, endangering ecosystems, human health, and economic stability. The rising global temperatures lead to more frequent and severe weather events like hurricanes, droughts, and heat waves, causing significant damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and human lives. It also contributes to the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, leading to rising sea levels and the loss of critical habitats for many species. Additionally, it affects ecosystems, disrupts biodiversity, and increases the risk of diseases and public health issues. Being part of this community, we, especially business students, should ask ourselves: How do economic growth and climate change connect, what problems do they create in reaching sustainability goals, and how do we solve them?

 

In response to this issue, a shift towards sustainable development is needed to address the harmful effects of economic growth on climate change. It requires enforcing policies to separate economic expansion from environmental degradation. For instance, SDG 13 provides a blueprint for directing our efforts toward climate change reduction and prevention. According to Wolf (2021), higher economic activity could provide the resources needed to invest in green technologies and infrastructure, ultimately contributing to climate change reduction efforts. Therefore, countries can reduce their carbon footprints by investing in renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and implementing green technologies while continuing to enjoy economic progress. 

 

Another crucial step is transitioning to a circular economy, which focuses on reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency. As suggested by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2015), a circular economy tackles climate change and other global challenges, like biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution, by separating economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. In addition, promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns is essential. Encouraging responsible consumer choices, fostering eco-friendly innovation, and adopting effective waste management systems can help reduce the environmental impact of economic growth. 

 

On a personal level, there are various ways to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. One can engage in sustainable practices within the business environment, such as implementing energy-efficient measures, promoting waste reduction, and recycling, and adopting renewable energy sources. Furthermore, business students can advocate for sustainability within their organizations, raise awareness about the importance of climate action, and support initiatives that align with the Sustainable Development goals. By reusing, recycling, and regenerating materials, we can minimize the extraction of raw resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with production and disposal.

 

Although economic expansion has dramatically increased human well-being, it has also contributed to climate change, hindering us from achieving sustainability goals. Recognizing the negative consequences of uncontrolled growth and development, governments, organizations, and individuals must prioritize policies and regulations for sustainable development. As a business student, I embrace sustainable practices and advocate for climate action within the sphere of influence. I can make a significant difference in creating a more sustainable future, especially by balancing economic growth and environmental protection. Investing in renewable energy, shifting to a circular economy, and fostering sustainable consumption patterns are all part of this. It is necessary that all stakeholders – governments, businesses, and individuals – recognize the shared responsibilities of the effects and consequences of climate change. Collaboration, creativity, and collective action are needed to balance economic growth, prevention, and climate change reduction. Harmonizing economic growth with environmental stewardship can assure a prosperous and sustainable future for our generation and future generations.

References

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2015). Towards a circular economy: Business rationale for an accelerated transition. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/TCE_Ellen-MacArthur-Foundation_9-Dec-2015.pdf

United Nations. (2020). Causes and effects of climate change. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change

Wolff, G. B., Tagliapietra, S., & Lenaerts, K. (2021, September 16). Can climate change be tackled without ditching economic growth? Bruegel | the Brussels-Based Economic Think Tank. https://www.bruegel.org/working-paper/can-climate-change-be-tackled-without-ditching-economic-growth

 

Photo Reference

Photo by Jimmy Chan: https://www.pexels.com/photo/low-angle-photography-of-buildings-under-blue-and-white-sky-998499/

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