NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Limits to Growth" Theory Has More Lives Than a Cat

August 27, 2002

Thirty years ago, a group of academic theorists called the Club of Rome put forth the "limits to growth" theory, predicting disaster for humankind unless we abandoned natural resource-depleting economic and technological progress.

"Limits to growth" arguments are still championed by "environmental protection" agencies, the United Nations and other international organizations such as the World Bank -- and the theory is being resurrected at the current U.N.-sponsored World Conference on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

But "limits to growth" theories have been proved wrong in a variety of ways, observers point out:

  • Energy resources are more abundant now than they were 30 years ago, not less.
  • So much food is being produced that famines are not agricultural problems -- but the result of misguided government policies in the Third World.
  • The air and water are cleaner in wealthy industrialized countries which have the resources to clean the environment.
  • And although the Johannesburg meeting will devote considerable attention to the assertion that the world is "running out of water," technological developments have made water available in even the driest areas thanks to desalinization.

A United Nations-sponsored ban on Freon cost huge sums for retrofitting refrigerators and air-conditioners -- even though the "science" behind it was highly suspect.

Most recently, the environmental crusade to save the forests by leaving them pristine and alone has resulted in fires that have destroyed vast swaths throughout the western U.S. -- as well as the creatures which live in them.

Source: George Melloan, "'Limits to Growth:' a Dumb Theory that Refuses to Die," Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2002.


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