Scientists’ views on economic growth versus the environment: a questionnaire survey among economists and non-economists

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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd The academic debate on economic growth, the environment and prosperity has continued for many decades now. In 2015, we conducted an online survey of researchers’ views on various aspects of this debate, such as the compatibility of global GDP growth with the 2 °C climate policy target, and the timing and factors of (never-)ending growth. The 814 respondents have a wide range of backgrounds, including growth theory, general economics, environmental economics, ecological economics, environmental social sciences, and natural sciences. The two main aims are: (1) to provide an overview of agreements and disagreements across research fields, and (2) to understand why opinions differ. The survey results indicate substantial disagreement across research fields on almost every posed question. Environmental problems are most frequently mentioned as a very important factor contributing to an end of economic growth. Furthermore, we find that researchers are more skeptical about growth in the context of a concrete problem like the compatibility with the 2 °C climate target than when considering environmental problems more generally. Many respondents suggest ideology, values and worldviews as important reasons for disagreement. This is supported by the statistical analysis, showing that researchers’ political orientation is consistently correlated with views on growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-103
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Climate change
  • Economic growth
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Ideology
  • Online survey
  • Scientific opinion


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