Is economic growth the source of or the solution to our global environmental problems?
Some commentators (e.g., Beckerman 1996, Boyce 2007) have noted that increased wealth—whose precursor is greater economic growth—is positively associated with stronger environmental regulations. This is to say that greater affluence brings with it greater willingness and ability to pay the costs of improving environmental quality. The general claim is that so long as people live in relative poverty, social and environmental problems are commonly overshadowed by economic ones: but that once basic needs and wants are met, individuals and communities are in a unique position to turn their attention and their resources to these policy problems.
Would this imply, in contrast to scholars like Arrow et al. (1995) or Brown (2011), that greater economic growth—and, thus, higher levels of consumption—and greater wealth distribution are necessary to solve our growing global environmental problems? Or are economic goals inherently in tension with environmental policy objectives?