UNSW School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering
Scientists’ Warning on Affluence – Implications for Renewable Energy
Professor Tommy Wiedmann - UNSW

Professor Tommy Wiedmann, at UNSW SPREE, 16 August 2022

Professor Tommy Wiedmann (63Min)


Tommy Wiedmann - SPREE

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Our cultures portray affluence as something that we should admire and defer to. But in fact, affluence is dangerous and neither good for the environment, nor for social stability. Worldwide affluence growth has overcompensated any technological efficiency gains and the economic growth imperative spurs further consumption. "Green growth" or "sustainable growth", which are built on perpetual economic growth, are bound to fail. This is because decoupling of environmental impacts from growth is insufficient or non-existent. Even complete decarbonisation with renewable energy will fall into the same trap if economic growth continues unabated. To solve the problem, we need to reduce consumption by changing wealthy lifestyles and managing economies in a way that really protects our climate and natural resources, even if this means less, no or even negative growth. The talk presents possible approaches that 'ignore' GDP as a measure of success and are aimed at reducing consumption and impacts. It will discuss the relationship between post-growth economies and renewable energy systems.

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Brief Bio

Tommy Wiedmann is Professor of sustainability research and is leading the Sustainability Assessment Program at UNSW Sydney, Australia. In teaching and research, he is guided by the question on how to achieve concurrent human and planetary well-being. Tommy has long-standing expertise in integrated, quantitative sustainability assessment, industrial ecology and environmental footprint analysis. He is leading the development and application of the Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory (IELab), a collaborative research platform for environmentally extended multi-region input-output analysis. His recent research is focusing on the relationship between sustainability transformations and planetary boundaries. Tommy is also an Adjunct Science Leader at CSIRO and a Lead Author of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In 2012, he received the Thomson Reuters Citation Award in Australia and has been listed as Highly Cited Researcher annually since 2015.