Want To Save The Planet? Grow The Economy!

I don’t write as often as I should about global climate control as I view most of the movement as a cynical effort to impose an economy killing philosophy on those who can least afford it. I feel somewhat obliged tonight to pass on a couple of truly incisive opinions.

The first I am shamelessly stealing from James Pethokoukis of Reuters. He quotes Joel Kotkin’s thoughts on the matter.

This latest economic fad is supported by an enormous industry comprising nonprofits, investment banks, venture capitalists and their cheerleaders in the media. Their song: that “green” jobs will rescue our still weak economy while saving the planet. Ironically, what they all fail to recognize is that the thing that would spur green jobs most is economic growth. … Ultimately, environmentalists need to realize that the road to a green economy does not lie in promoting hysteria, guilt and self-abnegation while ignoring prohibitive costs and grim economic realities. Green enthusiasts should focus on promoting a growing economy capable of generating both the demand and the ability to pay for more planet-friendly products. After all, the economy needs green jobs less than green jobs need a thriving economy.

Sometimes you just have to quit typing and let a statement stand on its own. This is one of those times.

The other observation came today in the WSJ in an opinion piece by Bret Stephens. I would like to simply reprint the whole thing but I don’t go there, so let me give you a glimpse of his column and please do read it when you have time.

If climate change is the threat Mr. Annan claims it is, India and China ought to be eagerly beating the path to Copenhagen. So why aren’t they?

To listen to the climate alarmists, it’s all America’s fault. “What the Chinese are chiefly guilty of is emulating the American economic model,” wrote environmental writer Jacques Leslie last year in the Christian Science Monitor. “The United States passed up the opportunity it had at the beginning of China’s economic transformation to guide it toward sustainability, and the loss is already incalculable.”

Facts tell a different story. When Deng Xiaoping began introducing elements of a market economy in 1980, Chinese life expectancy at birth was 65.3 years. Today it is about 73 years. The numbers are probably a bit inflated, as most numbers are in the People’s Republic, but the trend line is undeniable. In India, life expectancy rose from 52.5 years in 1980 to about 67 years today. If this is the consequence of following the “American economic model” then poor countries need more of it.

Mr. Stephens makes a number of exceptional points in his column including the observation that China and the US produce equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide yet America is by far the cleaner of the two countries. Why? As Kotkin points out, we have the luxury of a robust economy which allows us to indulge our preference for less pollution.

No doubt less punishment to the environment is a preferable manner of operating a country or an economy. Of equally less doubt that given the choice between less pollution and a march towards a decent standard of living countries and their citizens opt for the latter. As Kotkin suggests, develop economies and the rest is easy.

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