This paper contends that concerns with excess, alongside scarcity, have been present in the work of key analysts in economic thought, from Adam Smith to today's models of 'resource curses'. In the context of climate change, Bataille's vision of the 'accursed share' raises an important issue on how to use 'excess' of human energy without further damaging the physical environment on which human activity depends and the extent to which US decision–making after the Second World War is likely to impact on the attainment of a possible sustainable global order. For him, institutional decisions underpinning global redistribution, known as the Marshall Plan, were a much more rational response to the challenges of that time than the more timid decisions that produced the Bretton Woods institutions. From the 1970s, growing concerns about the impact of human (production) activity on the earth's physical environment, notably climate change, raised these issues anew.
Keywords: accursed share, excess, climate change, political economy, sustainability, sustainable development, economics