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  • Earth Day Update: Economic Growth is the Answer

    Great post by the New York Times John Tierney titled Use Energy, Get Rich and Save the Planet:

    When the first Earth Day took place in 1970, American environmentalists had good reason to feel guilty. The nation’s affluence and advanced technology seemed so obviously bad for the planet that they were featured in a famous equation developed by the ecologist Paul Ehrlich and the physicist John P. Holdren, who is now President Obama’s science adviser.

    Their equation was I=PAT, which means that environmental impact is equal to population multiplied by affluence multiplied by technology. Protecting the planet seemed to require fewer people, less wealth and simpler technology — the same sort of social transformation and energy revolution that will be advocated at many Earth Day rallies on Wednesday.

    But among researchers who analyze environmental data, a lot has changed since the 1970s. … The old wealth-is-bad IPAT theory may have made intuitive sense, but it didn’t jibe with the data that has been analyzed since that first Earth Day. By the 1990s, researchers realized that graphs of environmental impact didn’t produce a simple upward-sloping line as countries got richer. The line more often rose, flattened out and then reversed so that it sloped downward, forming the shape of a dome or an inverted U — what’s called a Kuznets curve.

    In dozens of studies, researchers identified Kuznets curves for a variety of environmental problems. There are exceptions to the trend, especially in countries with inept governments and poor systems of property rights, but in general, richer is eventually greener. As incomes go up, people often focus first on cleaning up their drinking water, and then later on air pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

    Of course, even if rich countries’ greenhouse impact declines, there will still be an increase in carbon emissions from China, India and other countries ascending the Kuznets curve. While that prospect has environmentalists lobbying for global restrictions on greenhouse gases, some economists fear that a global treaty could ultimately hurt the atmosphere by slowing economic growth, thereby lengthening the time it takes for poor countries to reach the turning point on the curve.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Earth Day Update: Economic Growth is the Answer

    1. Jim Keller, Rockland says:

      Yes and no. Your article is factual as far as it goes, and given a long enough term and and enough economic liberty would at least partially play out as projected.

      And the worst environmental conditions on the planet were found in the old Soviet Union, the best bad example to date of what "people's democratic republics" can do in the name of the people.

      However, the article doesn't connect lots of the dots in play here.

      Most obvious is that lots of the countries still "ascending the Kuznets curve" are impacting their environments (and "the" environment) to produce goods and services for we sitting here with clean water and clear skies in the developed world. And that's just like the way NYC used to use NJ as its garbage dump for all the activities it didn't want taking place within its own borders for many decades.

      There is also a real, if not fully quantifiable, chance that before all of us on the planet can afford to and choose to adopt sustainable resource utilization, we could cross various thresholds where some very negative and hard to reverse cycles could be triggered. The planet HAS had not only ice ages and greenhouse ages, but has been totally covered in ice for millions of years and been too hot for any land forms of life around today.

      Something (not human activities, but something) has triggered these changes. Some also seem to have come on more rapidly than one might think. And the one unarguable thing long-term climate science can teach us is that the climate will change dramatically at some time(s) in the future for whatever reasons.

      That alone, like studying how to track and deal with meteorites large enough to destroy us like the dinosaurs, is enough reason for the world to pursue robust (non-politicized) research into climatology, solar science and ecology.

      While many on the environmental left are hysterical and driven by anti-capitalism, the best response for conservatives is not to go into denial either.

      Resources (tho not their uses) are finite, while human demand is nigh infinite. So what's called for is not pretending otherwise, but embracing the science behind ecology and learning how to put it to productive use, making the world greener AND richer at the same time.

      The businesses and societies which learn how to ever-more effectively manage environmental considerations while increasing wealth and prosperity for all in innovative ways are going to make a whole lot of profit and will be the leading businesses and nations of the future.

      Conservatives, wake up – it's not too late to make Earth Day both something to celebrate and an issue we can take back and make our own.

    2. Laura Tenney, Nevada says:

      Jim,

      Many conservatives, such as myself, give thanks everyday for all of our blessings, including this wonderful planet and country. We don't need a holiday to do so. We respect the planet as God's creation and most of us treat it as gift from God; understanding that we are simply stewards over it. We understand the need to take care of it for our posterity.

      A fundemental difference in the beliefs of conservatives and liberals is that conservatives do not put the planet or animals above the needs of people. Most conservatives also know that our heavens and earth are destined to both pass away and a new earth and heaven will be formed.

      No matter what we do; we will not change what what is written in scripture and it is extremely arrogant to assume that we can.

    3. Dan, Texas says:

      You need to proofread the sentence after the end of the article (the one asking for donations).

      It says: "Your tax-deductible contribution today will ____ us to fight for conservative principles like free enterprise, limited government, traditional American values, individual freedom and a strong national defense."(Underline is mine, to emphasize missing word).

      I'm pretty sure that if you are trying to get donations as a think-tank or blog, you need to check for errors like that.

    4. Pingback: Hopi Native Americans Tell Environmentalists: Get Off My Lawn | Conservative Principles Now

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