"How Neoclassical Economic Thinking Has Led to Ecological Disaster?"
We are facing several crises at once: the near collapse of the world banking system in 2008 (and its consequences), the loss of biodiversity (the fifth extinction), world-wide pollution of land, water and air, and apparently escalating climate change. I shall discuss how neoclassical thought has justified the actions and behaviours that have led to these crises. Traditional economics (i.e. neoclassical use of calculus, network and game theory) has an emphasis on individual utility, rationality and market equilibrium. This approach with the use of market discount rates, the lack of reflexivity, the conversion of altruism into money, and the absurd separation of issues of equality from those of economic growth and welfare, has turned people into commodities (in the theory), played down our love of nature, and coarsened those who teach it. The greed and self-serving behaviour of the global banks, and the clients they advise, demonstrates the end result of worship of so-called free markets and pursuit of deregulation to achieve more profits.
About the speaker:
Dr Barker is the Chairman of Cambridge Econometrics, having founded the company in 1985. He is also Senior Departmental Fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR), Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Economic Systems Research, the International Journal of Climate Strategies and Management, the International Journal of Global Warming, and the Scientific Advisory Board of the World Wide Views on Global Warming. He was a member of the Scientific Committee of the Climate Change Congress, Copenhagen, March 2009, and was on the Writing Team of the Synthesis Report of the Congress. He received the Distinguished Guest Lecturer Medal for 2008 from the Royal Society for Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry Group.
He was a Co-ordinating Lead Author (CLA) for the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC)’s Fourth Assessment Report, 2007, for the chapter on cross-sectoral mitigation. Previously he was CLA in the Third Assessment Report, 2001, taking responsibility for the chapter on the effects of greenhouse gas mitigation policies on the global energy industries. He was a member of the core writing team for the Synthesis Report Climate Change 2001. He contributed to the IPCC's Scoping Meeting for the Fifth Assessment Report, held in Venice 13-17 July, 2009.
From 2000 he instigated and worked on projects building a global E3 model (E3MG) with initial emphasis on modelling the E3 structures of China and Japan. Since 2004 he has been working as member of a UK Tyndall Centre project to develop E3MG as a 20-region world model, designed to analyse GHG mitigation policies under endogenous technological change. He is now leading the research of a team in 4CMR developing and using E3MG for studies of the decarbonisation of the global economy, funded by the Three Guineas Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Trusts. In the 1990s he was appointed the Project Co-ordinator of the pan-European project developing and applying the E3 model for Europe (E3ME), partly funded by the European Commission, analysing energy and fiscal policies including the equity effects of environmental fiscal reform. Previously he was Principal Investigator on projects funded under the ESRC’s Global Environmental Change Programme ‘Developing an E3 model of the UK economy’ and ‘Greenhouse gas abatement through fiscal policy’; the independent evaluators rated the outcome of the first of these projects as an outstanding contribution to knowledge. He worked with Professor Sir Richard Stone, the Nobel Laureate, in the Department of Applied Economics, becoming the Director of the Cambridge Growth Project 1983-87, a team of 8-10 economists that originally developed the (MDM) structural model of the British Economy.