Economics, Sustainability, and Democracy

Economics in the Era of Climate Change

By Christopher Nobbs

© 2012 – Routledge

280 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138798861
pub: 2014-05-19
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415524407
pub: 2012-07-02
US Dollars$160.00

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About the Book

How should we conduct economics in an era of climate change, natural resource depletion and population increase? These issues are systemic, and involve great uncertainties and long time horizons. This book contends that the free-market economics that has dominated capitalist democracies in recent decades is not up to the task; that the welfarist economics that preceded it, while preferable, also has inadequacies; and that what is required is an economics founded on ecological principles, greater respect for the laws of natural science, and a moral commitment to a sustainable future.

The book commences with an exposition of major aspects of orthodox macroeconomic and microeconomic theory. It then explores the bounds of orthodox theory in relation to ethics, liberalism, ideology, society, the international economy, globalization, and the environment, and seeks lessons for a future economics. Issues raised by natural resource use and climate change are given particular prominence. Many of the issues of critical importance in coming decades involve not private goods but public goods: goods which markets are ill-equipped to deal with. In the resolution of these issues political processes will need to be engaged. The availability to each individual of clean air, clean water and adequate sustenance, goods which cannot be provided for by economic production alone, are of central concern.

While acknowledging the importance of market processes, the author argues in favour of a more deliberative and democratic economy, the greater engagement of civil society, environmental human rights and responsibilities, and in favour of a World Environment Organization, change in the conduct of the World Trade Organization, and for economists to accept moral responsibility for the policies they advocate. Specific case studies are given and potential policies outlined.

This book will be of interest not only to economists but also to citizens generally and students concerned with public affairs.


'Nobbs has provided a scholarly and well referenced integration of economic theory with ethics, all within the context of ecological economics and the biophysical limits to the scale of the human economy, most specifically exemplified by climate change. A fine contribution to building bridges between different modes of thinking.' — Herman E. Daly, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, USA.

'Nobbs’s book helps us better understand the current landscape of contemporary economics and its intellectual vicinity, while outlining a thought-provoking proposal about how we should be thinking and doing economics in the 21st century. Yet at the same time the book sets the stage for an informed discussion about the variety of possible alternatives that may not take the direction Nobbs advocates.' - Paul Dragos Aligica, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics

Table of Contents

Overture: The Fall PART I 1. Narrative on the History of Macroeconomics 2. Microeconomics and the Economics of Welfare PART II 3. Economics and Ethics 4. Economics and the Liberal Context 5. Economics and Ideology PART III 6. Economy in Society 7. International Economy and Globalization 8. Economy in the Physical World 9. Economics and Climate Change PART IV 10. Economics from a Deontological Perspective 11. Democracy, Citizenship 12. Economics: A Prospective View 13. Mathematical Appendix

About the Author

Christopher Nobbs has enjoyed a diverse career, including posts as a researcher in molecular biology at the University of Cambridge, as a consultant and administrator at the OECD Environment Directorate, as economist to the Government of Victoria’s salinity control programme, and as co-director of an Australia-wide social research consultancy. His abiding professional interest has been in issues at the intersection of science, economics, and politics, particularly as they relate to the environment. He is a graduate of the Universities of Auckland, London and Cambridge.

About the Series

Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy

In recent years, there has been widespread criticism of mainstream economics. This has taken many forms, from methodological critiques of its excessive formalism, to concern about its failure to connect with many of the most pressing social issues. This series provides a forum for research which is developing alternative forms of economic analysis. Reclaiming the traditional 'political economy' title, it refrains from emphasising any single school of thought, but instead attempts to foster greater diversity within economics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / Theory
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics