The Search for Sustainability: Why Science Matters

by Jane King

7.30pm on Tuesday 18 January 2011 .


at the Low Port Centre, Linlithgow,

Organised by the Falkirk and West Lothian Branch of the Scottish Green Party

Holyrood is committed to a 42% reduction in Scottish CO2 emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. The Scottish Green Party strongly supports these aims, and believes they can be achieved without recourse to nuclear energy – in fact the SGP claims that nuclear power, taking all stages of its production into account, is as CO2-dirty as some fossil fuels. On the other hand Rupert Soames, CEO of the FTSE 100 power supply company Aggreko, sees this aspiration as a piece of wishful thinking – we won’t be able to work the trick of ramping up renewables to meet such stringent emissions targets while maintaining the level of power supply we’re used to.

How can we tell who is right? The question is a tricky one, and economics alone won’t answer it; the costs involved won’t be just financial ones. Neither is it enough to assume that if we all face in the right environmentalist direction things will somehow work out. But physical economics, an economics of physical resource rather than money, makes possible the kind of modelling that can give useful answers – though perhaps not comfortable ones – to questions about what it will take to get from here to there, and achieve a sustainable future.

This talk will look at the necessary conditions for such a future, and discuss how physical economics can play a part in clarifying them – with a particular focus on Scotland’s needs and potentials.

Jane King

Jane King has worked with the diplomatic service in Moscow, in educational planning in Paris, in Mauritius heading human resources planning in the lead-up to independence, and at Unesco where she had overall responsibility for developing new approaches in assessing the relationship between population and development. The Unesco work led to her and Malcolm Slesser’s development of natural capital accounting at The University of Edinburgh in the 1980’s. She is has now left the University but is still involved with the Resource Use Institute in Scotland and continues to be busy with a number of applications and spin-offs of natural capital modelling.