Economic growth is aimed at improving the living conditions and well-being of the population. However, some of the consequences of economic growth relates to the depletion of natural resources and causes pollution. This issue raises the question of the long-term sustainability of economic growth (Antoci, 2009). It is important to understand the risks associated with economic growth for climate change and to determine whether the protection of the environment is compatible with economic growth. The paper evaluates this relationship in the context of contemporary research evidence.
Significant research work has been done to evaluate the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection. Antoci, et al., (2007) mention the predominant view during 1980’s was that economic growth leads to major environmental damage. One of the most serious problems was the warming of the planet as a result of emissions of greenhouse gases. The emission of greenhouse gases was caused by all forms of economic activities such as transport, agriculture, and manufacturing. Another aspect of economic growth was believed to be increasing air pollution and degradation of water quality due to industrial manufacturing. Economic growth has been believed to result in over-exploitation of natural resources (Antoci, 2009). Environmentalists believe that industrialization (associated with economic growth) is a concern for the future depletion of energy and mineral reserves. It has been posited that industrialization is built up on the consumption of non-renewable resources of the planet. It was believed that excessive harvesting of renewable resources leads to damage to biodiversity. This damage to non-renewable sources was attributed with the disappearance of thousands of animal and plant species each year and threatened the future of ecosystems (Zuo & Ai, 2011).
Bezdek, et al., (2008) argue economic growth does not necessarily leads to the harmful impact on the environment. The authors have proposed a sustainability model of economic growth. The concept of sustainable development was born of the work of the Brundtl and Commission in 1987 under the auspices of the United Nations (Bezdek, et al., 2008). This Commission identified that sustainable development is possible by taking into account economic externalities. According to the theory, economic growth must be achieve in a manner which fulfils the development needs of the mankind at present without having a negative impact on the ability of subsequent to meet their own growth and development needs(Bezdek, et al., 2008).
According to Zhonghua & Yu, (2011), liberal theorists consider that it will be possible to find alternative resources to depleted sources in the future. This approach also advocates a growth model based on the replacement of non-renewable resources with renewable resources in industrial production. The objective of this replacement is to preserve natural capital of the planet (Antoci, et al., 2007). The movement has led to a rethinking of the relationship of human beings with each other and the nature. This approach poses a critical look at all forms of economic developments and identifies the way in which this development affects the environment. Carraro & Galeotti (2007) proposes sustainable development which comes from the idea that economic development must take place while maintaining the integrity of the environment. This objective of this approach is to ensure the health and safety of human communities and preserving ecosystems that sustain life on the planet (Zhang, et al., 2013). In addition, this approach also ensures social equity to allow the full development of all women and all men towards the growth of communities and creation of respect for diversity. The aim of sustainable development is to reach economic efficiency to reach economic growth in an environmentally and socially responsible manner (Bezdek, et al., 2008).
The three core principles on which the entire concept of sustainable development is built are pursuit of economic efficiency in all processes, making considerations for social equity during development and assessing environmental impact of all industrial processes. Social equity gives considerations to the basic human needs of the humans in terms of housing, food, education and health (Carraro & Galeotti, 2007). Environmental quality relates to long-term preservation of natural resources while maintaining the major ecological balances and reducing environmental impact of economic growth (Cordero, et al., 2005).
A number of researchers have quoted the example of China to support the argument that economic growth is possible without compromising on environmental protection. Zhang, et al. (2013) state over 97% of Chinese domestic waste was treated properly in the year 2013. The 2013 report on the impact of solid waste on the environment in Chinese cities was published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The report said China has generated 161 million tons of municipal waste and about 2.4 billion tons of industrial solid waste in major cities which was treated and recycled (Zhang, et al., 2013). Industrial solid waste is produced mainly in northern China where the provinces of Hebei and Shanxi and Inner Mongolia host large industrial activity (Zhang, et al., 2013). Zuo & Ai (2011) have also supported this point of view by pointing out environmental protection has accompanied China’s economic growth. The example of China serves as a useful lesson since it is the most populous country in the world. If China has been able to create a balance between economic growth and environmental protection, then all other nations in the world can do the same. Thus, any other country can find means to achieve economic growth without compromising on environmental protection.
The paper evaluated the risks associated with economic growth for climate change and determined whether the protection of the environment is compatible with economic growth. It is found that economic growth does have a negative impact on the environment if sustainable development considerations are not adopted by the organization. It is concluded that economic growth and environmental protection are compatible. It is concluded that economic growth can be achieved by ensuring the health and safety of human communities and preserving ecosystems that sustain life on the planet.
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