“A world Decoupling Rate assuring adequate development space is reserved within planetary boundaries, for world cultural wellbeing.”
The problem to solve is shown below, a contradiction we really must solve somehow (see the hint at the end). The historic records display natural “growth constants” for the world economy, including energy use and energy use impacts growing exponentially, in constant relation to the growth of GDP. That is the “coupling” that needs to be “decoupled”. I call the coupling of GDP and energy use “natural” because throughout history people have noticed that’s what happened, tried to explain it and also tried to change it. This coupling of measures of the whole economy has remained, as if they were a growing person’s “height and weight”, growing at different rates, but still growing together. It has seemed to be just inherent, then, in how the economy works.
As a systems ecologist, myself, I see them as displaying properties of how the parts of the system have habituated their internal coordination, as they accommodate continually accelerating expansion. To simplify that I interpret it as the economy’s (and society’s) natural “learning rate” for discovering new ways to use the earth, while expanding as fast as possible to maximize financial returns. Systems ecology, then, does not consider economic growth as a “monetary progression” but as a process of “whole societal learning and organizational development”. In simple terms, then,
…”growth” is a process of our learning how to coordinate doing what we want.
The “Economic Growth Constants” shown here are:
GDP (3.13 %/yr), Energy use (1.89 %/yr), and Energy Efficiency (1.24 %/yr) . The linkage between the GDP and Energy curves, is the “Energy Coupling Rate” (60.4 %/yr the ratio 1.89/3.13), how fast energy use grows relative to wealth.
The idea of “Decoupling” is to weaken that linkage to zero. Many people believe new technologies should revolutionize development economics so development doesn’t these constants will change, and innovation will create products people prefer that don’t consume energy to produce or use.
We could define that with a “Decoupling Rate”, as a rate at which the Coupling Rate declines. That would allow continued growth in wealth without adding to the now destabilizing scales of energy use impacts on the earth. We have continually doubling impacts from both producing and consuming energy, and also from using it, with continually doubling impacts of altering and using the earth too.