Growth versus the Environment - Is There a Trade-off?

Per Kågeson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This book shows that the intensity of use of energy and materials in OECD countries is diminishing over time despite falling metal and energy prices. Material demand is sometimes falling in absolute terms, but there are also a few examples of rapid growth.

The supply of fossil fuels and minerals is being exhausted, in some cases at a rapid speed, but the question addressed here is whether the rate of depletion is so fast that there will not be time for technical progress to create adequate substitutes. Overall, this appears not to be the case. The two main industrial metals are very abundant, and most minor metals already have substitutes for many of their applications. A few metals can be expected to become very scarce, but much of the large quantities of them currently in the technosphere could be recycled.

Developments in OECD Europe over the last 25 years have resulted in relative or absolute delinking between economic growth and environmental damage. On the other hand, it is uncertain whether continuing economic development along these lines will in all cases lead to the achievement of sustainable development, even whithin 25-30 years. Indeed, this study identifies some examples where slower GDP growth would have resulted in less damage (eg. household waste and emissions of CO2 and NOx, and possibly the depletion of fish stocks and the negative impact of forestry and agriculture on biodiversity).
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Environmental and Energy Systems Studies
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 May 29
ISBN (Print)91-88360-33-4
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1997-05-29
Time: 13:15
Place: Inst för fysik, Sal B

External reviewer(s)

Name: Arrhenius, Erik
Title: Prof
Affiliation: Dept. of Natural Sciences, Kalmar University


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Energy Systems


  • emissions reduction
  • material intensity
  • pollution control
  • sustainable development
  • resource depletion
  • environment
  • economic growth
  • energy
  • Environmental technology
  • Miljöteknik
  • kontroll av utsläpp


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