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A response to Daniel Driscoll: Another slice of degrowth bashing

March 4, 2024

On February 23rd, 2024, the New York-based socialist magazine Jacobin published “4 problems for the degrowth movement,” a short piece written by Daniel Driscoll, a social science researcher at Brown University. Like all the previous Jacobin articles touching on the topic[1], this one is firmly against degrowth. On social media, the article has been intensely bashed. “Pure ideological blinkers” (Julia Steinberger) from the “anti-degrowth Jacobin gang” (Dan Kervick). “The author contradicts himself at every turn” (Andrew Ahern). A “bad piece” (Patrick Bresnihan),  an “iffy piece” (Jag Bhalla), a “bad faith, slightly odd critique” (Nick Bernards), or less diplomatically: “another slice of dogshit” (John Duncan). Even some degrowth-sceptics have complained.[2] Joseph Davies-Coates hits the mark: “it would appear you have written about degrowth without first reading anything about it.” These commentators are right, the piece is not worth the read. It is an awkward mix of factual mistakes, logical contradictions, and tired misunderstandings, all of this hastily patched together.


For Daniel Driscoll, sustainability equals decarbonisation. This is what I like to call carbon monomania: an obsessive preoccupation with one single environmental impact. But reality is more complex: climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, freshwater change, land-system change, etc. – the ecological crisis is made of several interdependent dimensions. Achieving carbon neutrality is like solving one face of a Rubik’s cube – necessary but not sufficient. And watch out: trying to solve one problem might mess up another. For example, electrifying a large car fleet may reduce greenhouse gases emissions but at the costs of more metal extraction, and this electric vehicles use six times more minerals than conventional cars. This is why sustainability is so complex: all faces of the Rubik’s cube must be solved together. The real puzzle for green growth advocates is to demonstrate that GDP can be sufficiently decoupled from all forms of resource use and environmental impacts.

As an ecological economist, I don’t think this is possible.[3] Even in a world without fossil fuels, you would still need energy, machines, and workers to produce something. Windmills, solar panels, electric cars require power, metals, minerals, water, land, and hours of work to be manufactured, maintained, and operated. Even the most dematerialised service – let’s say, me writing this paper – requires time and effort (aka calories) and a material infrastructure, a university office, a computer, kilowatts of electricity, and the submarine internet cables without which you would have never been able to read this text. Back in the 1960s, ecological budgets were not completely in the red, and so there was still some wiggle room for growth. But today is different. Almost all planetary boundaries have been breached and most of these ecological issues are getting worse. We went from a relatively easy 2×2 Rubik’s cube to an exceptionally hard 6×6.

Concerning climate change, everyone knows the core concern is speed. We must reduce greenhouse gases fast enough to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. There is an ongoing debate between different discourses that put more or less emphasis on sufficiency versus efficiency, but, in a state of climate emergency with stakes that high, we should carefully review all of our options. This is why I find the dismissal of degrowth strategies counter-productive.

The fastest, most effective way to reduce emissions is to produce and consume less today – that’s a fact. A plane that stays grounded is a plane that does not emit carbon. Flying less might be a socio-economic riddle in and of itself but it has the advantage of directly reducing emissions, unlike carbon taxes and investments in alternative aviation fuels, which only bear the hypothetical possibility of an emission reduction. It is not a coincidence that the 2008 crisis and the global pandemic are the two only moments since 2000 where the footprint of aviation went down. This wasn’t the result of a revolutionary new flying technology or bold environmental policies; it was because of lockdown.

The author begs to differ: “decarbonization through decreased consumption may not be necessary” if we green growth. “Look at the recent collapse in the price of solar,” he writes in a triumphant tone. But hang on: the drop in the price of renewables did not reduce fossil fuels consumption. Globally, solar electricity capacity has more than doubled between 2016 and 2022 but this has happened in parallel to a 5% increase in the use of oil, gas, and coal who still represent 76% of the world energy mix. What some people call an “energy transition” is closer to an energy addition where renewables are added on top of their fossil predecessors. Even solar panels are not true “carbon-free substitutes” (a term used by Daniel Driscoll) if they require high-carbon energy to be manufactured, transported, repaired, and recycled. In that context, pointing to the price of solar is deceitful. It would be like hoping that a drop in the price of veggies put the fast-food industry out of business.

As a second piece of evidence of how “resource utilization can become more efficient over time,” the author invites us to “think about how small computers have become since the 1980s thanks to increasingly powerful microchips.” But the proof easily breaks down. A prime example is smartphones. The iPhone 14 Pro Max from 2022 (240 grams, 73-124 kg CO2eq) is almost twice the weight and between 32% and 125% more carbon-intensive than the iPhone 3G (133 grams, 55 kg CO2eq), its ancestor from 2008.[4]So, fourteen years of technological progress have not managed to bring down the footprint of the main product made by a company acclaimed as one of the most innovative in the world.[5] Plus, there are many more smartphones per person today than fourteen years ago and we are buying new ones more frequently. It should not be surprising that ICT now represents 2.1-3.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In ecological economics, we call these rebound effects, situations where efficiency improvements rebound into more emissions. Smaller computers, larger footprints.

In a desperate attempt to wriggle out of the debate, Daniel Driscoll attacks degrowthers for grounding their theories on the analysis of historical trends. Without wasting time on the epistemological naivety of such statement[6], let’s remember that the first official deadline for climate mitigation is 2030. This is in less than 6 years. Even though they still matter in the long-term, it is delusional to expect slow, supply-side efficiency measures to cut emissions in the coming years.

Even if right now, you were to invent a revolutionary electric car, it would take years before it can replace its fossil counterparts (the average lifetime of a car is 10 years). But if you find a way to sell fewer fossil fuel vehicles today (while also curbing the use of cars already in circulation), then you can impact emissions in the here and now. This is why sufficiency-oriented concepts like degrowth, post-growth, and wellbeing economy are rising in popularity; it’s a relatively faster and more fail-safe way to cut emissions, especially in sectors like transport that have experienced no decoupling. In reverse, the closer we get to climate deadlines, the more difficult it is to believe in the green growth credo. It was all fine to dream about flying electric cars, carbon capture, and nuclear fusion in the 1990s but entertaining these fantasies today is delusive.


Reducing economic inequality is one of the core pillars of the degrowth agenda. But there is a problem, says Daniel Driscoll: “redistribution to lower income groups or populations who have a higher propensity to spend can actually increase household consumption, which all other things equal may in turn increase emissions.”

Let’s start by noting that the author contradicts himself: on the one hand, he worries that redistribution will increase emissions because poor households will consume more. But he also criticises degrowth for “forcing most of the world population to accept lower living standards,” concerned that “forced degrowth” will be imposed onto emerging market economies, and that these economies will have “to accept nondevelopment for the sake of climate goals.” So, basically, he argues that degrowth will both increase the consumption of the poorest and decrease their standards of living, which is contradictory.

Now might be a good opportunity to clarify the global implications of degrowth. This is a point I was already explaining in a response to Hannah Ritchie: one must lower global environmental pressures because we have already breached several planetary boundaries, that’s a fact. But one must do this while eradicating poverty, an objective that is consensual on both sides of the growth debate. This situation brings two conundrums. First problem: the remaining ecological budgets are not large enough to sustain both high-footprint lifestyles in already-rich regions of the world and an energy- and material-intensive process of development in places where needs remain unmet. Second problem: the nature-intensive lifestyles of the global rich exacerbate environmental disasters, which are predominantly suffered by low-income populations.

The world’s poorest find themselves constrained both by resource scarcities and ecosystem collapse, making it almost impossible for them to achieve any kind of prosperity. Hence the degrowth credo: reducing resource consumption in affluent parts of the world to free up biophysical budgets for those who need it most while slowing down the ecological damage imposed to those who need it the least.

The situation is simple: limited ecological budgets in a world with unequal responsibilities, needs, and capabilities. This is a classic rationing problem. I don’t think appealing to a mythical “egalitarian green growth,” “a rising tide of growth that can improve the living standards of the majority,” helps us solve that problem. It perhaps would in a situation where the poor are responsible for the largest share of emissions and where economic growth actually alleviates poverty. But this is not the case in the world we live in. In fact, it’s the opposite: the 10% richest individuals (780 million people) cause half of global emissions while the poorest half of humanity (3.9 billion people) is only responsible for 12% of emissions. The world’s top 1% of emitters produce over 1000 times more CO2 than the bottom 1%. It is actually a lucky coincidence that the footprints of a minority of rich individuals is so big because it means the ones who are most financially agile (the upper global decile owns 73% of world wealth) are also the one who will shoulder the largest downshifting.

Will global redistribution actually increase emissions? Well, let’s figure out. Luckily, a group of researchers recently published a paper in Nature answering that very question: “Impacts of poverty alleviation on national and global carbon emissions.” Using input-output analysis with detailed expenditure data for 116 countries, they were able to estimate carbon footprints for different categories of households based on their level of consumption. This allowed them to run different poverty alleviation scenarios (with poverty lines ranging from $1.90 to $5.50) and calculate how much emissions would be generated by the additional consumption of those escaping poverty. In the most ambitious scenario, they estimate that bringing 3.6 billion people over the $5.50 poverty line would increase global emissions by 18%. So, when it comes to the global poor, one should indeed expect to see their emissions rise (people living on less than $1.90 per day have an average carbon footprint of 0.4 tCO2, about a tenth of the global average). If anything, this finding reinforces my previous claim, which is perfectly phrased by the authors of the Nature paper: “To ensure global progress on poverty alleviation without overshooting climate targets, high-emitting countries need to reduce their emissions substantially.”

There is another way of exploring this question, this time looking more specifically at inequality within rich nations. In a working paper from December 2023, Lucas Chancel and Yannic Rehm calculate what they term “the carbon footprint of capital,” namely emissions linked to the ownership of polluting firms. To calculate a more comprehensive individual footprint than the one given by the classic consumption-based approach, they attribute capital formation to investors and all other emissions to consumers. If you buy a Mercedes, you inherit the footprint of the car, but if Mercedes buys a new factory, the associated emissions are allocated to capital owners in proportion of how many shares of the company they own.

From a consumption-only perspective, the average per capita emissions of the top 10% in France is 16.2 tCO2, roughly twice the footprint of the bottom half of the population (7.8 tCO2). Adding ownership emissions into the mix, the upper decile sees its footprint climb to 24.8 tCO2 while the poorest half step down to 6.8 tonnes. The crucial implication of this finding is that the savings of the rich pollute more than the spendings of the poor, and therefore that redistributing wealth must not necessarily involve an overall rise in emissions. In other words, contrary to what Daniel Driscoll argues, it is sometimes possible, at least in the context of a high-income countries, to reduce emissions and inequality at the same time.

This is not to say that consumption should stay exactly the same. It would be absurd to redistribute oversized steaks, private jets, and dirty corporate shares. Evidently, all things should not stay equal, and the last few years of growth-critical research has focused precisely on that: finding more ecologically efficient ways of securing decent living standards. To speak in the lingo of environmental economists, we should decouple environmental pressures from wellbeing or decrease the ecological intensity of wellbeing. In plain language: we must find ways of safeguarding high levels of quality of life while reducing our ecological footprints. Less pollution, better life (especially for those who struggle today). To solve that riddle, we must look beyond dollars to better understand the relation between fundamental human needscapabilities, and ecological footprints.

In the global North, a growing number of studies suggest that it is possible to increase welfare without producing and consuming more. For example, suppose you want to decrease the footprints of the transport sector while improving mobility, especially for low-income households. Since moving a thousand people requires either one train, 15 buses, or 625 cars, a first objective might be to encourage public transportation, even if that reduces GDP. Access to public transport could become free of charge (like in Luxembourg since 2020), the infrastructure being financed via fair, progressive taxation. You can heavily tax or even ban the sale of heavy, fossil fuel cars while subsidising the purchase and location of small electric vehicles (even if that reduces GDP). Even choices in terms of private modes of transport matter: 100kWh of battery can power one large SUV, two normal cars, 10 micro-cars, or 200 bikes. I doubt the mobility-related welfare derived from a single car outweighs the one of 200 bikes (even if the value added is surely lower, especially if the bikes are shared within a commons). The point of this exercise is to illustrate that our current economic system is performing poorly in turning natural resources into wellbeing and that there is ample wiggle room to improve quality of life without economic growth.


The threat of dictature is a grand classic of degrowth bashing. It is the weapon of choice of liberal Sovietophobes who systematically associate any kind of planning with totalitarian administration. (I must say that it is rather unexpected to see such an irrational fear of planning in a socialist magazine like Jacobin.) For Daniel Driscoll, degrowth would not be possible without “an authoritarian regime of global planning.” “The kind of state planning to mitigate emissions and regulate behavior while reducing overall production and consumption would need to be a globally coercive regime with otherworldly institutional capacities and knowledge.” I have already untangled this misconception before,[7] so let’s cut to the chase.

Why would one need a “global planning regime” to restrain household consumption? This is unnecessary. There are many simple and democratic ways of rationing scarce resources at the local level. Take water for example. In France, it is rationed in times of droughts where it becomes illegal (and culturally frowned upon) to wash your car, water your lawn, or fill your swimming pool. These rules come additionally to more organic customs that encourage saving water in situations where shortages could be life-threatening for others (what economists call moral incentives). Even when water is relatively abundant, certain municipalities can actively deter overconsumption. The city of Montpellier in the south of France has introduced a progressive pricing scheme: the first 15 m3 per year are free, water between 16 m3 and 120 m3 cost 0.95€ per mand 1.40€ after that. This is a locally-run, self-managed rationing system.

Now imagine that if all countries were to set serious national carbon budgets in line with IPCC recommendations (like some have already started to do following the Paris Agreement). It would then be possible to apply the same rationing logic, using both nonprice rationing mechanisms like bans and quotas and market instruments like progressive prices (a good example of a nation-wide carbon rationing scheme is Tradable Energy Quotas). This is for water and carbon but similar protocols can be extended to land-use and other essential natural resources. No need for a world Gosplan, there are plenty of moral, legal, social, and financial incentives that can be put in place to limit consumption in the spirit of libertarian municipalism.

Before going any further, let me note that degrowth goes beyond restraints on consumption. (I say this because Daniel Driscoll puts carbon-tax advocacy and degrowth in the same basket; supposedly, they both “advocate decreases in consumption as a way to decarbonization.”) In reality, most definitions of degrowth specify that what must be reduced is production and consumption. There is a reason for that. Deconsumption practices like voluntary simplicity, rationing, and collaborative consumption can only be effective in reducing ecological footprints if they are matched with downshifting efforts on the production side. Difficult to fly less in a world where we’re hammered by ads from airlines and almost impossible to stabilise consumption in an economy with for-profit businesses hardwired to sell more all the time. Degrowth planning must happen synchronously at both levels: consumers deciding to buy less and companies deciding to sell less.

Since we are discussing planning, allow me a comment on carrots and sticks. Daniel Driscoll argues that “carrots (economic gains) have had more political success historically than sticks (economic losses) when implementing climate policies.” This is perhaps true but I’m not sure all transition efforts can be rewarded economically. Indeed, a large swathe of resource-saving and regenerative activities will not be profitable. Leaving oil in the ground, maintaining a forest uncut, or protecting species against exploitation means forsaking a potential income. There are benefits to all these actions but they are not monetizable.

In that sense, it resembles the situation we faced during Covid. We all benefited in terms of health from limiting the spread of the virus but it didn’t make any of us richer. This is why the lockdown wasn’t enforced with thumbs up and gold stars. No, we constrained ourselves for the greater good. This is the essence of rationing: a resource is allocated with limits – the stick – in order to prevent shortages and ensure that everyone has access to enough – the carrot. In the fight against climate change, the carrot should not be counted in dollars but in degrees of avoided warming.

Besides, we have tried the carrot strategy for decades and look where we are today. Let’s never forget that the alternative to democratic rationing is rationing by price, a system that today rewards fossil fuels corporations (BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies have paid a historical $100 billion to shareholders in 2023) while allocating most of our limited carbon budgets to the people who need it the least (the 10% richest individuals owning 73% of world wealth appropriate half of all emissions; the bottom half of humanity, which owns only 2% of global wealth, only have access to 12% of our total carbon budget). Carrots to super-polluters, sticks to low-income earners. It should be the precise opposite. So, the belief that “economics may take use to net zero on its own,” as titles a 2022 article in the Financial Times, is extremely dangerous because it won’t.


Repressing growth will not solve the problem of financing electrification and energy-input replacement.” This is the ‘there is no magic money tree’ argument, another liberal trope to pull the rug out from under any objection to growth. “The new capital needed to transition has to come from somewhere,” writes Daniel Driscoll with the tone of an IMF structural adjustment specialist. Because money doesn’t fall from the sky, “a global investment boom is necessary to pay for decarbonization.”

The problem with this “one last economic boom” argument is that it is biophysically incoherent. Most economists assume that an economic activity generates a surplus (usually counted in money) that can then be used to finance another activity. Make SUVs, tax their sales, pay school teachers. And yet, this process is completely reversed when it comes to natural resources. An economic activity somewhere uses energy and materials that then cannot be used for another activity elsewhere. If you buy a truck to deliver Amazon packages, that is one truck (or one bundle of materials and energy) that won’t be available to someone else.

It is absurd to think that we should grow the economy as a whole with all the things we don’t need in order to raise revenues for the things we do want. Do we need to sell more and more SUVs to raise a few euros in VAT to invest in the treatment of respiratory diseases? Do we need a booming advertising sector to pay the wages of our nurses? Who, apart from the fossil fuels lobby, would dare assert that selling more oil is necessary to pay for renewable energies? This strategy of growing the problem to finance its solution is a Ponzi scheme.

Money is not the real limiting factor in this transition – resources are. The real budget for a Green Deal is counted in kilowatts, tons of greenhouse gases, kilos of metals and minerals, number of species, square kilometre of virgin soil, etc. If we want to continue to be able to finance those things we want to see grow (including renewable energies), we’re going to have to free up an ecological budget somewhere else. Traditionally, economists make a difference between consumption and investment, while assuming that whatever is not consumed is invested and vice versa. But this distinction is just a monetary accounting convention. From a biophysical point of view, there is no difference between the two. In terms of energy and materials, the car produced for and used by a family (household consumption), a municipality (public investment), or a company (private investment) is the very same car. If the consumption of cars decreases but is matched by an investment in more cars, the situation remains the same. The objective here should be obvious: the relevant variable is not the accounting category (consumption or investment) but the actual product, namely these cars we must gradually phase out to lower our total ecological footprint.

(For the record: I also don’t buy the “economic justice may require one last economic boom” unless we specify that this growth only happens in places where people struggle to satisfy their needs and only last as long as it is required for their wellbeing without jeopardising their ecological sustainability. I develop this point further in A response to Hannah Ritchie: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Economic Growth.)


The author of the Jacobin piece argues that “most people […] do not know or care about degrowth.” As proof, he compares Google searches for “degrowth” with those for “how to get rich” (there is even a graph to show the relative frequency of the two searches!). It doesn’t take a PhD in sociology to realise how questionable that method is.[8] In terms of real evidence, there are a number of surveys available to gauge the popularity of degrowth. I’m not arguing here that degrowth will become mainstream anytime soon but one must acknowledge that there is a growing enthusiasm for the idea.

In a review of 24 studies, Jason Hickel notes that “respondents are willing to prioritize environment over economic growth even though they may assume that harming growth could have social downsides. It is reasonable to expect that, if respondents were informed that post-growth policy can improve social outcomes, support for these statements may be even stronger.” That’s an interesting point. People who know the degrowth literature well associate the term with political autonomy, conviviality, appropriate technology, sharing practices, community gardens, eco-villages, work time reduction, commons, among and array of other utopian features (for good review of the degrowth worldview, see The Future is Degrowth). This makes it potentially more powerful in terms of inspiration and mobilisation than a green growth vision of the world that only replaces fossil fuels by renewables. I mean, renewables are necessary but they are not something you would dream about. What do you find most exciting: a high-enough carbon tax or the utopia of a prosperous post-capitalist civilisation?

Even though scientists in the global North prefer degrowth and agrowth over green growth (and they are not all “morally committed left academics”), it is fair to say that the latter discourse is easier to sell to the broader public. People, planet and profit, the triple bottom line that pleases everyone – difficult to say no to that. But that does not make green growth possible in reality.  This reminds me of trickle-down economics, another example of a false yet alluring idea. Green growth would be a form of trickle-out economics, expecting economic growth to magically phase out its own emissions. But, just like the trickle-down hypothesis, green growth is a fable without solid scientific foundations.

And the other way around, it is not because degrowth is unpopular that it is wrong. If green growth is not a viable strategy for sustainability, this leaves us with two choices: degrowth today or collapse tomorrow. It is slower by design or by disaster, writes the ecological economist Peter Victor. This is the message I wanted to convey in the title of my French book: “slow down or perish” (ralentir ou périr). Either we democratically plan a downscaling of production and consumption to reduce ecological footprints while securing wellbeing for everyone, or we keep pushing planetary boundaries until nature imposes sufficiency upon us through a lethal mix of resource shortages and climate catastrophes. Degrowth might be a hard sell but it’s still sexier than collapse.


It is strange that Jacobin allowed something that flimsy to be published. The piece reads like a bingo of misunderstandings. Daniel Driscoll associates degrowth to a dictature, a pathway to austerity and poverty, a form of lifestyle environmentalism, and even an increase in carbon emissions. (Bonus points for coining a new derogatory term I’ve never heard before: “economic suppression.”) Kai Heron is right when he calls it “a good example of Brandolini’s Law”: a 3-page, poorly written text that demands much more effort to debunk than to write.

Ten years ago, this piece would have still been shameful but at least with the excuse of dealing with a new, niche topic. In 2024, however, after decades of extensive research on degrowth[9], such pseudo-scientific boohoos can no longer be tolerated. I would have cut some slack to a politician or a business leader, but a university scholar has no excuse for producing an analysis that superficial. In light of the recent convergence between degrowth and eco-socialism, this is a step backward. Silver lining: these anti-degrowth whimpers might actually make degrowth more popular. As Rubén Vezzoni commented: “turns out the best argument for degrowth is the intellectual meagreness of its detractors.”

[1] “Degrowth is not the answer to climate change” (August 2023) by Leigh Phillips and “The problem with degrowth” (July 2023) by Matt Huber (for responses to these authors: “A response to Matt Huber: Facts and logic in support of degrowth,” April 2021; and “Réponse à Leigh Phillips : La décroissance pour les nuls,” February 2021). Céline Keller sums it up pretty well: “there’s something about Jacobin that simply won’t let Jacobin publish ONE person to speak on degrowth positively.”

[2] “I am against ‘Degrowth,’ mostly as an empty and useless academic buzzword, but by god this is the most dogshit fake argument anybody could have ever made” (Lefty). Nick Bernards writes: “there are absolutely limits to degrowth perspectives, on both analytical and political terms. But it’s a source of some frustration for me that left critics of degrowth have […] largely missed the mark.” As expected, Leigh Phillips, an anti-degrowth recidivist, celebrated “another great critique of the bizarrely influential neo-Malthusian ideology of degrowth” (To understand why it is an analytical mistake to associate degrowth with Malthusianism, see Giorgos Kallis’s Limits: Why Malthus was wrong and why environmentalists should care, 2019). Also on the degrowth-bashing side, Alec Stapp marvelled at “the best Jacobin article of all time” and Noah Smith used this opportunity to offer one of his regular lament on the “floundering” of “leftist environmentalism” (see A response to Noah Smith: Is degrowth bad economics from December 2021).

[3] For a convincing demonstration of the theoretical impossibility of green growth, see Blair Fix’s Rethinking economic growth theory from a biophysical perspective (2015). For other critical takes on why green growth is not an adequate strategy for sustainability, see Vogel and Hickel (2023)Charlier and Fizaine (2023)Haberl et al. (2020), Hickel and Kallis (2020), Vadén et al. (2020), Jackson and Victor (2019), Parrique (2022), and Parrique et al. (2019).

[4] I’ve used the carbon footprints from the Product Environmental Reports provided by Apple. These are supposed to incorporate emissions along the full lifecycle of the product, including production (usually around 80% of the total footprint), transport (a few per cents), use (around 15% of the footprint), and end-of-life processing (less than 1%): iPhone 3G (55 kg CO2eq), iPhone 4 (45 kg CO2eq), iPhone 5s (65 kg CO2eq), iPhone 6 (95 kg CO2eq), iPhone 7 (56-75 kg CO2eq), iPhone 8 (57-71 kg CO2eq), iPhone SE 2nd gen. (55-70 kg CO2eq), iPhone SE 3rd gen (46-58 kg CO2eq), X (79-93 kg CO2eq), iPhone 11 (70-87 kg CO2eq), iPhone 12 (70-85 kg CO2eq), iPhone 13 Pro (69-112 kg CO2eq), and iPhone 14 Pro (65-116 kg CO2eq).

[5] An astute environmental economist might say that this is a form of decoupling because the carbon intensity of an iPhone 3G sold for $199 (0.27 kg CO2eq per dollar) is much higher than the one of the iPhone 14 Pro Max sold at $799 (between 0.09 and 0.15 kg CO2eq per dollar). And yet, this is a dubious measure of sustainability if emissions per phones have actually increased. This is why we should always worry about decoupling claims that look at the intensity of GDP without referring to absolute sustainability thresholds.

[6] Here is the full passage: “Those who argue that decoupling emissions from GDP cannot happen fast enough are extrapolating from the historical association of emissions and growth. If historical trends routinely and straightforwardly predicted our economic future, then much of the risk that we know to be endemic to the stock market and the financial sector would not exist, as the past would be a sure guide to what’s coming next.” I wonder: How else can social scientists try to make sense of the future if not by looking at the past? The comparison with the stock market is particularly specious. It would be like arguing you cannot predict future temperatures because the weather is changing all the time.

[7] See The political economy of degrowth (2019, pp. 360-363)A response to Alessio Terzi: Degrowth for good. Dismantling capitalism to save humanity from climate catastrophe (April 2023), A response to Kenta Tsuda: Welcome to degrowth (September 2021), or Response to Saurabh Arora and Andy Stirling: Snails Don’t Bite or: Why you should not worry about degrowth turning imperial (May 2021).

[8] The hyperlink used by Daniel Driscoll points to a 2-page research article published in 2018 in Socius. Authored by two PhD students, the article tracks the Google search frequency of the phrase “will i be deported” in the United States to see whether these queries occur more frequently during immigration policy changes. The paper only displays one raw search in a single graph without further analysis and there is no discussion whatsoever on methodology. As weak as this is, it is still stronger than Daniel Driscoll’s patchy comparison of a popular sentence (“how to get rich”) with an academic term (“degrowth”).

[9] For a taste of “empirically grounded, actionable solutions” (Daniel Driscoll argues that degrowth has none), see these recent papers on food and land systemsurban mobilityforestrytourismhousingfashion, and many more (to go further, see this online database of degrowth papers). For a systematic review of degrowth policy proposals, see Fitzpatrick et al. (2022). For a general outlook on degrowth research, see Hickel et al. (2022) and Kallis et al. (2018).

Timothée Parrique

Timothée Parrique (pronounced “tea-mo-tay pa-rick”) is a social scientist, originally from Versailles, France. He holds a PhD in economics from the Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur le Développement (University of Clermont Auvergne, France) and the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University, Sweden). Titled “The political economy of degrowth” (2019), his dissertation explores the economic implications of the ideas of degrowth. He is currently writing a book adaptation of his PhD dissertation. Tim is also the lead author of “Decoupling debunked – Evidence and arguments against green growth” (2019), a report published by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). He frequently writes about green growth and decoupling. Tim is passionate about heterodox economics, philosophy of science, and academic writing. When not ranting about economics, Tim likes to surf, climb, and do backflips on his mountain bike – yes, it’s possible. (He also spends more time than he would like to admit playing chess online.) He blogs at and tweets at @timparrique.