Does Getting Richer Mean Getting Greener?

kuznets curve image

Hurray, we can all go back to bed! John Tierney predicts in the New York Times:

There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers' passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology.

That's because we will all get rich and the planet will get greener because of it. The Kuznets Curve proves it.

kuzents curve 2

"Each line is an environmental Kuznets curve for a group of countries during the 1980s. The levels of sulphur dioxide pollution (the vertical axis) rise as countries becomes more affluent (the horizontal axis). But then, once countries reach an economic turning point (a gross domestic product close to $8,000 per capita), the trend reverses and air pollution declines as countries get richer. In this analysis by Xiang Dong Qin of Clemson University, the green line shows countries with strong protections for property rights; the red curve shows countries with weaker protections."

Tierney suggests that as people get richer, they get more concerned about their environment and do something about it.

while pollution can increase when a country starts industrializing, as people get wealthier they can afford cleaner water and air. They start using sources of energy that are less carbon-intensive — and not just because they're worried about global warming. The process of "decarbonization" started long before Al Gore was born.

He uses sulphur dioxide as the big example: Americans got richer, started complaining, and it went away as a problem. He doesn't seem to remember that lakes and trees were dying across North America, that the effect of the pollution from SO2 was immediate and visible and in your face. He ignores the fact that rich people don't stop making garbage, they just pay to put it somewhere else, out of sight and out of mind.

What does this have to do with Carbon Dioxide? With the end of oil? Nothing. But then, they aren't problems, are they?


Tierney's tag line is "Putting Science to the Test"- It is perhaps time that someone put Tierney to the test. More in the New York Times
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If NY Times Columnist Tierney Thinks Holdren Is Bad Science Advisor Pick, He's Definitely the Right Choice