Inderscience Publishers

Thermodynamic constraints on the economic systems and operational principles for a sustainable society

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The significance of thermodynamic constraints on the economic system, along with finite biophysical resources on the earth, has drawn profound implications for energy and material policy and management. This paper aims at identifying the compatibility between two different frameworks for a sustainable society that have emerged from thermodynamic principles. The first is the concept of the Steady-State Economy, which emphasises the need for constant populations of humans and artefacts maintained by the lowest feasible flow of resources. The second is the Systems Conditions of The Natural Step, which addresses how we manage resource extraction and pollution, but without explicitly addressing the concept of the steady state. I show that these two frameworks are compatible with dynamic system considerations, and that sustainable societies achieved through these two frameworks are likely to have the same characteristics.

Keywords: thermodynamics, economic systems, steady-state economy, Natural Step, systems conditions, ecological economics, sustainable societies

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