A Study on Causal Modeling for Sustainable Development Issues Based on System Dynamics ——from "Limits to Growth" to "Carbon Neutrality"

from "Limits to Growth" to "Carbon Neutrality"


  • Wenjun MAI Institute for Science, Technology and Society SCNU
  • Chengdong Liao


limits to growth, causal modeling, system dynamics, carbon neutrality


50 years ago, the book of Limits to Growth was published, setting up a variety of scenarios to model and predict the various possible situations for development in the future world. The book has a far-reaching impact till these days, and the modeling method named System Dynamics (SD) adopted in it is now widely used for dealing with world development problems. However, this system modeling approach has been questioned on many fronts, among which lacking robustness was seen as the biggest problem when the model was used to make medium- to long-term prediction. For responding the call-in-question, the book of Limits to Growth has been revised and republished several times, but the problem is still not solved by the roots. In recent years, the causal modeling methods, which has stronger robustness in modeling draws great attention from both scholars and modelers. How to better use it in modeling and predicting development of the world has great signification for modelers and policy maker.This paper intends to analyze the modeling processes of the World-III model in the book of Limits to Growth from a perspective of causal modeling, and then summarize difficulties and limitations of causal modeling methods used in describing and simulating the world for development issues. Finally, this paper presents an empirical study of causal modeling on China’s path planning of carbon neutrality, by integrating causal modeling methods with system dynamics.