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Sustainability 2009, 1(4), 1195-1225; doi:10.3390/su1041195

The Influence of Thermodynamic Ideas on Ecological Economics: An Interdisciplinary Critique

1
Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I•SEE), University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
2
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
3
Department of Economics, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 October 2009 / Accepted: 24 November 2009 / Published: 1 December 2009
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Forum for Sustainable Development)
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Abstract

The influence of thermodynamics on the emerging transdisciplinary field of 'ecological economics‘ is critically reviewed from an interdisciplinary perspective. It is viewed through the lens provided by the 'bioeconomist' Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906–1994) and his advocacy of 'the Entropy Law' as a determinant of economic scarcity. It is argued that exergy is a more easily understood thermodynamic property than is entropy to represent irreversibilities in complex systems, and that the behaviour of energy and matter are not equally mirrored by thermodynamic laws. Thermodynamic insights as typically employed in ecological economics are simply analogues or metaphors of reality. They should therefore be empirically tested against the real world. View Full-Text
Keywords: thermodynamic analysis; energy; entropy; exergy; ecological economics; environmental economics; exergoeconomics; complexity; natural capital; sustainability thermodynamic analysis; energy; entropy; exergy; ecological economics; environmental economics; exergoeconomics; complexity; natural capital; sustainability
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Hammond, G.P.; Winnett, A.B. The Influence of Thermodynamic Ideas on Ecological Economics: An Interdisciplinary Critique. Sustainability 2009, 1, 1195-1225.

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