This is the great question of the 21st Century, really, and it’s as hard to settle as it is vital.
For the longest time, it was seen as rather axiomatic that getting carbon emissions down to a sustainable level would mean saying “goodbye to growth.” This was phrased in different ways – usually with some vague comment about how we’d all be better off if we didn’t care so much about ‘stuff’ and how a post-growth society could be fairer, more peaceful, more equal, etc. (See for example Affluenza and Prosperity without Growth, or the provocatively-titled website Make Wealth History.) This seems to be intuitively sensible to quite a lot of people, and there’s a veritable cottage industry devoted to helping people ‘live sustainably’ by reducing their economic activity in order to reduce their personal carbon footprint – growing their own food and so on.
In more recent years, though, this reaction has been roundly challenged by a more optimistic view, apparently nicknamed ‘bright green’, which believes that a combination of technological improvements can enable us to reduce emissions to below dangerous levels without sacrificing (much) economic growth – or the key aspects of our cosy Western lifestyles. This view has quickly become the mainstream view amongst policymakers – particularly since the 2007 Stern report, which argued addressing climate change was achievable for the cost of a few % of GDP growth. (It’s also Al Gore’s basic position.)
It’s also a view I’m instinctively drawn to.