Economic prosperity and environmental quality: It can be done!

posted at 7:01 pm on March 2, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Self-fancied environmentalists have an unfortunate tendency to turn to big-government and top-down control as the best and most efficient arbiter of environmental quality, when in fact the effort to coerce people’s behavior into complying with their preconceived notions of ‘green’ living reliably comes with a whole host of unintended consequences and puts a damper on the very economic growth that is the real driver of the types of innovation and efficiency for which environmentalists claim they’re pushing. Prosperity is not the enemy of environmental quality, and as much as the greenies doth protest, it is more than possible to both improve global standards of living and better our environmental stewardship — at the same time.

Firstly, environmental concern is what you might consider a luxury good: People only take the time to consider and mitigate their impact on the environment when they have the disposable income, time, and resources to do so (that’s why third-world countries in which poverty reigns make for some of the worst ecological offenders). A new study finds that, since the start of the recession and as more and more people have been falling on hard times, “green fatigue” is setting in:

Public concern about environmental issues including climate change has slumped to a 20-year low since the financial crisis, a global study reveals.

Fewer people now consider issues such as CO2 emissions, air and water pollution, animal species loss, and water shortages to be “very serious” than at any time in the last two decades, according to the poll of 22,812 people in 22 countries including Britain and the US.

Despite years of studies showing the impact of global warming on the planet, only 49 per cent of people now consider climate change a very serious issue – far fewer than at the beginning of the worldwide financial crisis in 2009.

More importantly, however, economic growth means new technologies, innovation, efficiency, and progress. We are constantly figuring out how to accomplish more with fewer resources — that’s the entire basis of free enterprise, and it’s a boon for the environment, too.

Graph of primary energy consumption, as explained in the article text

Walter Russell Mead explains:

Energy intensity, or the amount of energy we use to create one dollar of GDP, has plummeted 58 percent between 1949 and 2011. Even more impressive is the 66 percent decrease in carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon emitted per real dollar of GDP. In other words, we’re wringing more production out of the energy we use, and doing so with less environmental impact.

Enough of all the gloom-and-doom, the predictions of imminent crises, and the hysterical insistence that we better start voluntarily making ourselves poorer or we’re looking at the end of days. Instead of trying to manipulate humanity with more rules and regulations, perhaps environmentalists could think of a way to be a little more productive with their recommendations. As Matt Ridley writes over at PERC:

Extrapolate global average GDP per capita into the future and it shows a rapid rise to the end of this century, when the average person on the planet would have an income at least twice as high as the typical American has today. If this were to happen, an economist would likely say that it’s a good thing, while an ecologist would likely say that it’s a bad thing because growth means using more resources. …

Pessimism should no longer be a prerequisite for being an environmentalist. It can be counterproductive because it is a counsel of despair. People do not respond well to being told disaster is unavoidable. Instead, the environmental movement should try optimism. …

All the economic models agree that the fastest economic growth will produce the smallest population, the most frugal use of resources, and the most land sparing.


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I couldn’t finish the article, but … really?! Does anyone really believe that economic progress DOESN’T lead to a more managed and clean environment?

Oh, that’s right, without the clean air act we’d all be dead from emphysema by now, right?

Timin203 on March 2, 2013 at 7:05 PM

Has our new Secretary of State signed off on this?

Electrongod on March 2, 2013 at 7:06 PM

The environmental “movement” doesn’t give a damn about saving the environment. They care about destroying capitalism. They have become one of the primary vehicles of the socialist, progressive movement.

predator on March 2, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Economic prosperity and environmental quality: It can be done!

Not with Dark Ages Obama in charge.

VorDaj on March 2, 2013 at 7:10 PM

As long as the eco-nuts persist with the AGW scam, there can be no meaningful dialogue with them.

However, dialogue is not on their agenda, so they don’t care.

Their agenda is no different, in principle, than Islam or Communism – total control (as in god-head).

OldEnglish on March 2, 2013 at 7:21 PM

The environmental “movement” doesn’t give a damn about saving the environment. They care about destroying capitalism. They have become one of the primary vehicles of the socialist, progressive movement.

predator on March 2, 2013 at 7:08 PM

There’s no point in reading the article. The whole premise that “if we only could find the right balance, everyone would be happy” is a joke! The environmentalists aren’t environmentalists. They are Marxists. The don’t care about anything other than destroying America. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is blind.

If tomorrow someone invented one windmill that would supply all of America’s energy for a 1000 years with energy to spare… if that one windmill was a power source for all of our cars, homes, planes, trains and military..with energy to spare… the left would burn it down and crucify the man who invented it.

JellyToast on March 2, 2013 at 7:22 PM

The environmental “movement” doesn’t give a damn about saving the environment. They care about destroying capitalism. They have become one of the primary vehicles of the socialist, progressive movement.

predator on March 2, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Always have been. Remember the smog controls of the early 70′s? They were meant to destroy the auto industry. The environmentalists were royally pissed when the clever industrialists invented the catalytic converter. The environmentalists new scam however, is brilliant — take the product of perfect combustion (CO2 and water) and regulate it. Scare people into thinking carbon dioxide will kill us all by global cooling warming climate change and their pursuit of destruction of western industry may be realized.

AZfederalist on March 2, 2013 at 7:24 PM

I know! Let’s just call it “Same Sex Drilling” or “Same Sex Fracking” since the majority of the workers are male. Win/Win
/

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 7:33 PM

AZfederalist on March 2, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Ever see the Penn Jillette video where they go to one of these “environmental fairs” and circulate a petition to ban H2O by calling it my it’s chemical name? Hippies are signing up left and right to ban…water! It’s a hoot.

predator on March 2, 2013 at 7:42 PM

I know! Let’s just call it “Same Sex Drilling” or “Same Sex Fracking” since the majority of the workers are male. Win/Win
/

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Wow……

Deep thoughts..

Is a well defined properly as Female?

And if so..

What about multiple partners in the deep well?

Electrongod on March 2, 2013 at 7:43 PM

What about multiple partners in the deep well?

Electrongod on March 2, 2013 at 7:43 PM

Some of my favorite fracking involved multiple partners.

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Oh, and I got really tired of the CE/SSM thread.

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 7:47 PM

Ever see the Penn Jillette video where they go to one of these “environmental fairs” and circulate a petition to ban H2O by calling it my it’s chemical name? Hippies are signing up left and right to ban…water! It’s a hoot.

predator on March 2, 2013 at 7:42 PM

Those are the useful idiots. They have attended the First Church of Environmentalism but haven’t paid much tote notion to the details.

AZfederalist on March 2, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Electrongod on March 2, 2013 at 7:43 PM

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 7:46 PM

You guys are sick. Sick, I tell you. Sick. Sick. Sick.

:)

petefrt on March 2, 2013 at 8:00 PM

thinking more in line with better learn to go all somali, tire fires. Lead pollution.

I don’t hug trees, I chop them down and build barricades.

*war*

wolly4321 on March 2, 2013 at 8:10 PM

I’m the ultimate environmentalist as a rancher bcs I make a living by keeping my land healthy.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government pays farmers enough $$ it is now profitable to plow under native prairie, as well as other plots of land that aren’t good for anything but pasture in an effort to get as much government $$ as possible.
And meanwhile, crazy ignorant people are out there stopping the reduction of herds of feral horses that are eating the living hell out of western lands & decimating it for native species, all in the name of trying to save escaped domesticated livestock.
The world is upside down & I hate all of these people bcs they have no clue WTF they are doing.

Badger40 on March 2, 2013 at 8:21 PM

I agree with predator.

SparkPlug on March 2, 2013 at 8:22 PM

You guys are sick. Sick, I tell you. Sick. Sick. Sick.

:)

petefrt on March 2, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Hey! I’ve been called Sick by people a whole lot nicer than you!

;)

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 8:28 PM

AZfederalist on March 2, 2013 at 7:24 PM

That, and the general move to bland, underpowered “global cars”(via things like CAFE and mandatory minimum fuel standards) also is a part of it. The environmental activists still end up driving the behemoths that everyone else did – while everyone else ends up driving bland golfcarts.

sethstorm on March 2, 2013 at 8:48 PM

VegasRick on March 2, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Reminds me… When someone called a buddy of mine a dirty SOB, he said, “You can call me dirty, but don’t call me unclean.”

petefrt on March 2, 2013 at 8:49 PM

All the economic models agree that the fastest economic growth will produce the smallest population, the most frugal use of resources, and the most land sparing

…so we have to have open borders?

KOOLAID2 on March 2, 2013 at 9:32 PM

“The Times is discontinuing the Green blog, which was created to track environmental and energy news and to foster lively discussion of developments in both areas.” The reality must be that people don’t read it, and people simply don’t find global warming a scintillating subject. So much for the notion it’s the “story of the century.”

J_Crater on March 2, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Your first mistake Erika, is in thinking the eco-fascist leaders were ever even concerned with the environment – they aren’t. They are watermelons – green on the outside and red on the inside. The environmental movement is not about the environment, it is about destroying capitalism and turning us into commies for them to rule after they exterminate most of us. After all what commies are best at is mass murder and genocide.

And if you think that is a bit of an extreme description you should investigate the close links between the eco-fascists and the population control freaks. They are all misanthropes, every one of them.

woodNfish on March 2, 2013 at 10:41 PM

predator on March 2, 2013 at 7:42 PM

I had a survey that I used in my high school chemistry classes every year until I retired. It gave all the negatives of water under its chemical name instead of common name. This was given after I had taught the students how to convert chemical names into formulas. Year in and year out I convinced 85 – 90% of the students to commit suicide by banning this horrible chemical. When I asked them to convert the name to its formula I saw a lot of face palms. The teachers were worse. Out of 125 teachers the one year I gave it to them 122 voted to ban it and thought the government should do something. The 3 chemistry teachers were the only ones that voted to keep the compound.

chemman on March 2, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Prosperity is brought about by improvements in production techniques and productivity that look to CUT WASTE so as to maximize productive effort and minimize loss. Thus you get efficiency and those less efficient, more wasteful, actors in the economy do less well and either have to adapt lest wasteful techniques or die off… this is part of the ‘creative destruction’ of capitalism and is brought about by the capitalist system as it INCENTIVIZES increased efficiency and productivity per unit of capital.

It isn’t all just about lower cost per worker, and that point is only one part of the equation in a capitalist system and while the highest part of O&M it requires that work utility be maximized as well via increased productivity and a skilled workforce. Remove those incentives and you get highly polluted China or the vast forests and inland seas that the Soviet Union destroyed in the name of OUTPUT not in the name of efficiency nor of competition. State Capitalism or State Socialism offers ZERO incentives for increased productivity via competition as it does nothing for the State which either directs or owns the means of production.

Those who want high technology, the use of relatively free energy in orbit, mining the moon and asteroids and slowly moving the industrial base of humanity from the planet along with its energy generation systems who are the actual environmentalists because they see the great good and profit to be made by going to space. It is the Luddites… no, to be fair, the Luddites were just trying to keep their old way of doing things, the modern ‘Green Movement’ isn’t Luddite… no they aren’t ‘pro environment’ they are just anti-human: people for a human-free Earth is their goal. You don’t need it as a written policy item, just look at the cumulative activity and thrust of modern ‘Greens’ and that is what you can conclude. It is these types that want you impoverished, child-less, without cheap energy and living in squalor as the vast infrastructure that allows for an industrialized society falls into ruin. Once the infrastructure for power, water, sewage treatment, highways, railroads, airports and all the rest of it is sacrificed to the alter of the Ever Now, only then do you head on that human-free world path.

Your choice in the next few years is to convince people to turn away from anti-human sentiments, to turn towards and embrace modern civilization and to then seek to extend that beyond the navel-gazing cyber-world and back out to where the gazing can do some good. Until we get off this rock we are just one extinction event away from catastrophe, and a CME lasting a couple of weeks just might do it at this point and we avoided a few of those this past year by just a few degrees of where they erupted from the sun. Imagine all electrical systems, every transformer, every piece of modern electronics fried in less than a day and no ability to replace them… because the manufacturing systems are unhardened, without infrastructure and perhaps without people to actually run the machines.

That is just one typical disaster that is cyclical in nature getting prepared for us and we are wasting time, effort and energy on ‘Green’ BS and allowing anti-human ideas to spread. I’m all for a nice ecosystem for mankind, and this planet doesn’t have one. A nice ‘starter’ home, a fixer-upper, but, really, not all that trustworthy and in a pretty rough neighborhood. I’m more than ready to back ‘environmentalism’ only if it means that I can watch the next extinction event from orbit and watch the meeky inherit the Earth. No one left to bury them, but I’m sure nature will take care of that for us which is what they want, after all. They are the navel-gazers figuring out the best place to start the seppuku cut. I just want ongoing prosperity, freedom and liberty.

The sword pointed inward or outward, that’s your choice, and time is running out on the decision process and that means you get it inward by default now.

ajacksonian on March 3, 2013 at 7:17 AM

Evidently this hack journalist was to young in the seventies, or too stoned to remember them.
We had three mediocre presidents.
One who signed the EPA into law.
One who was lampooned by the national media.
One who screwed with our national speed limit and pushed liberal idiocracy to the brink of dooming us into a prolonged cold war on capitalism.
Not only did Carter suck, but so too did the economy!

Guess what?
We still managed to do all of the things that were actually a lot better for our quality of life.
We cleaned up Lake Erie – IT WAS ON FIRE -, took lead out of paint & fuel, and cleaned up the sulfur dioxide (no more acid rain).
Guess what again?
The economy still sucked, disco was a craze, and we didn’t put businesses out of business under the auspice of “green”.

Then along came Reagan to prove that liberalism is indeed a mental disorder.

kregg on March 3, 2013 at 7:22 AM

Then along came Reagan to prove that liberalism is indeed a mental disorder.

kregg on March 3, 2013 at 7:22 AM

It is a mental disorder.

We’ve transformed our society over the last 60 years or more to protect the insane and the degenerates while stripping protections from the innocent, sane and intelligent. Common sense has been assaulted while perversion and insanity have been celebrated. Political correctness rules the day. And what is political correctness, really? It’s just lies. You have to repeat the lie while you are restricted from stating the truth and the obvious.

So, as a result, the mentally ill rise to the top and the intelligent are kept at the bottom or at least, pressured to keep quiet if they do rise to the top.

America is being controlled by two groups of people…. the corrupt and the mentally ill.

Take the congressman who stated in a hearing that he was concerned that too many people on a certain island might cause the island to tip over. If the man really believes that, he should be hospitalized.. and 60 years ago he probably would be. But today, there he sits in congress writing and passing laws that affect the rest of us.. and nobody is allowed to point out the obvious or state the obvious in his presence. Just one example.

But too, write down on a piece of paper all the things liberals support and it would be a conflicting mess that made no sense.
Write down who their icons are and why and what they have really done vs what they have really said and it would be a conflicting mess… example… Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton… most libs would say were big defenders of women’s issues. Again… if you actually thought that was true.. you’d have to be insane. But in the lib world.. it is.

JellyToast on March 3, 2013 at 8:33 AM

The model for Economic Prosperity & Environmental Quality has already been built and proven: NORWAY

bobnox on March 3, 2013 at 11:06 AM