Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 673–688, 2015

Special issue: Social dynamics and planetary boundaries in Earth system...

Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 673–688, 2015

Research article 13 Oct 2015

Research article | 13 Oct 2015

Long-run evolution of the global economy – Part 2: Hindcasts of innovation and growth

T. J. Garrett T. J. Garrett
  • Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Abstract. Long-range climate forecasts use integrated assessment models to link the global economy to greenhouse gas emissions. This paper evaluates an alternative economic framework outlined in part 1 of this study (Garrett, 2014) that approaches the global economy using purely physical principles rather than explicitly resolved societal dynamics. If this model is initialized with economic data from the 1950s, it yields hindcasts for how fast global economic production and energy consumption grew between 2000 and 2010 with skill scores > 90 % relative to a model of persistence in trends. The model appears to attain high skill partly because there was a strong impulse of discovery of fossil fuel energy reserves in the mid-twentieth century that helped civilization to grow rapidly as a deterministic physical response. Forecasting the coming century may prove more of a challenge because the effect of the energy impulse appears to have nearly run its course. Nonetheless, an understanding of the external forces that drive civilization may help development of constrained futures for the coupled evolution of civilization and climate during the Anthropocene.

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Short summary
GCMs and economic models are often coupled for climate scenarios. Here, what is examined is how well a simple non-equilibrium thermodynamic model can represent the multi-decadal growth of global civilization. Initialized with growth trends from the 1950s, the model attains high skill at hindcasting how fast the GDP and energy consumption grew during the 2000s. This opens treating the coupled economy and climate as a physically deterministic response to available flows of energy and matter.
Final-revised paper