The two limits debates: "Limits to Growth" and climate change

Joshua Eastin, Reiner Grundmann, Aseem Prakash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we compare the current debate about global warming with the earlier discourse of Limits to Growth (LtG) of the 1970's. We are especially interested in the similarities of and differences between the two cases and therefore compare the policy challenges and lessons to be drawn. While the two debates differ on important issues, they share a technocratic orientation to public policy, and susceptibility to similar pitfalls. In both debates alarming scenarios about future catastrophes play an important role. We suggest that climate change policy discourse needs to focus more closely on the social, economic, and political dimensions of climate change, as opposed to its excessive emphasis on emission reduction targets. We also argue that an excessive faith in the market mechanisms to supply global warming mitigation technologies is problematic. In this respect, we provide a reality check regarding the political implications of emission targets and timetables and suggest how policy issues can be moved forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-26
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • global warming
  • Limits to Growth
  • public policy
  • climate change
  • emission reduction targets
  • supply global warming mitigation technologies
  • emission targets


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