Sustainability: no impact or low impact?

3 thoughts on “Sustainability: no impact or low impact?”

  1. Hi Nic, Paul Krugman here. Long time fan, second time commenter. Be really interested in your upcoming post that outlines the article in a little more detail. Always interested in the practical issues in this space – how do you value environmental degradation? What regulations and guidelines should be in place to determine how externality taxes are collected and spent? If a no impact system means that any environmental degradation has to be offset not only by a financial transfer but environmental action, then I would be open to this (i.e. if I currently pollute and pay $50 tax which goes to government and is spent without restrictions, now that tax needs to be spent on directly replenishing natural capital or I need to take action directly).


  2. Thanks Paul nice to have you back. The upcoming post on the article hopefully will not be far off but it may not cover all your interests given I try to keep them short.

    On the no impact system the author of the article does not provide any detail and the report does not advocate for either side of the debate. However, let me expand on why I think no impact is not possible. If we look at individual problems then it may appear possible to offset our impact or replenish natural capital but in aggregate I do not think this is possible. Some explain this through science and the laws of thermodynamics (I will not)

    Instead let me use climate change as an example when we offset carbon we may plant more trees, but this requires land. If we capture and store the carbon we are using energy and resources. And so on, no matter what offset we have in mind we place a stress on some other aspect of natural capital. I therefore view the example you provide as a low impact rather than no impact form of sustainability. The only offset that does not do this is agreeing to lock up rainforests but, although admirable, this is not a true replenishment of the stock of natural capital.


  3. Thanks Nic, really interesting, never thought about second round effects in this context. Would intuitively thought it depends on whether the resources are renewable or non-renewable but understand the point.


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