In my last two posts, I tried to explain the rebound effect and explore its implications for policy. (Short version: Rebound effects are real and in some cases substantial, but they do not undermine the case for energy efficiency.) In this post — the last in what I promise was never intended to become a multi-part series — I explore the question of what the rebound effect means for our larger understanding of the fight against climate change. Following that thread leads us into some deep waters, where we confront the climate policy dilemma that dare not speak its name: growth. Bear with me, it gets a little nerdy along the way.

The most obvious and uncontroversial thing to do about rebound effects is to better understand them and incorporate them into our climate policy analysis. Most climate analysis doesn’t grapple with them at all, which cannot help but confuse our expectations and confound our efforts. We need some shared definitions, metrics, and standards for use by climate wonks.

So that’s easy. After that, things get a bit murkier.