Can green growth really work and what are the true (socio-) economics of climate change?

Many economists and policymakers advocate a fundamental shift towards “green growth” as the new, qualitatively-different growth paradigm, largely based on enhanced material/resource/energy efficiency, structural changes towards a service-dominated economy and a switch in the energy mix favouring renewable forms of energy. “Green growth” may work well in creating new growth impulses with reduced environmental load and facilitating related technological and structural change. But can it also mitigate climate change at the required scale (i.e. significant, absolute and permanent decline of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at global level) and pace (i.e. in no more than two to three decades)? This paper argues that growth, technological, population-expansion and governance constraints as well as some key systemic issues cast a very long shadow on the “green growth” hopes. One should not deceive oneself into believing that such an evolutionary (and often reductionist) approach will be sufficient to cope with the complexities of climate change. It may rather give much false hope and excuses to do nothing really fundamental that should bring about a U-turn of global GHG emissions.