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Sustainability and well-being requires effective governance and management in the environmental, social and economic domains.

SEED Working Paper 19: A Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality

This 52-page working paper is number 2008-09, the 19th paper in the Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) working paper series.

  • 9 July 2008

Turner G. 2008. A Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality. Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED). CSIRO Working Paper Series Number 2008-09. June 2008. ISSN 1834-5638. 52 pp.

The Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion CSIRO Working Paper Series aims to bring together environmental socio-economic research from across CSIRO.

Summary

In 1972, the Club of Rome’s infamous report The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972) presented some challenging scenarios for global sustainability, based on a system dynamics computer model to simulate the interactions of five global economic subsystems, namely: population, food production, industrial production, pollution, and consumption of non-renewable natural resources.

Contrary to popular belief, The Limits to Growth scenarios by the team of analysts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did not predict world collapse by the end of the 20th Century.

This paper focuses on a comparison of recently collated historical data for 1970–2000 with scenarios presented in The Limits to Growth. The analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compares favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the “standard run” scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st Century. The data does not compare well with other scenarios involving comprehensive use of technology or stabilizing behaviour and policies. The results indicate the particular importance of understanding and controlling global pollution.

Read about the Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) working paper series.