Using Math for a Green New Deal

A mathematician has come up with an algorithm for his version of a Green New Deal. The approach maximizes economic growth while creating the “steepest possible decrease” in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The system proposed by Professor Alexander Vaninsky (Hostos Community College) uses differential algebraic equations to restructure economies bit by bit. His paper laying out the approach was published in the International Journal of Dynamics and Control.

Unlike standard approaches to economic optimization, Vaninsky’s algorithm does not establish criteria in advance. “Instead,” he wrote, “it suggests small changes in an economic system in the direction that is locally the best.” That trajectory determines whatever structural changes are needed at each point, given the latest technologies and the environmental conditions.

Each time a point on the projected trajectory for growth and energy savings is reached, a new trajectory is established toward the next optimal point, keeping in mind the triple goals of economic growth and reductions in energy consumption and emissions. This process leads the economy to what is known as the Pareto-optimal state, a type of efficiency where no one indicator can be improved without worsening another one.

But how do you increase economic output without increasing energy consumption? Vaninsky points out that not all sectors consume energy at the same rate. Optimal economic restructuring would decrease growth in energy-intensive industries while expanding growth in industries that don’t consume a lot of energy. Vaninsky’s “continuum of infinitesimally small, locally optimal steps” also imposes strict constraints to “prevent any sector from disappearance or domination.”

Vaninsky says his approach, with adjustments, may be applied to a variety of economic systems, from microeconomies to the global economy. It can also be used to shape environmental policy or as a roadmap for international cooperation and economic development. It also offers a possible route for implementing a Green New Deal, the proposal championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others to address climate change and economic inequality.

Beyond SUM

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Alexander Vaninsky (Professor, Mathematics) | Profile 1 | Profile 2 | Profile 3

Colleges and Schools

Hostos Community College