Economics

More Curves: Richer and Greener

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Following on Nick Gillespie's post/insult to his colleagues, I'll offer a few more curves for Hit & Run readers to appreciate.

Check out some sexy, sexy Kuznets curves below—supplied by New York Times science columnist and my former boss John Tierney—which illustrate that "over the long term, being richer often translates into being greener."

Many environmental problems get worse as a country first industrializes, but once it reaches a certain level of income, the trend often reverses, producing a curve shaped like an upside-down U. It's called a Kuznets curve (in honor of the economist Simon Kuznets, who detected this pattern in trends of income inequality): 

curvy

Read the whole Tierney column here.

Dip into Reason's past Earth Day coverage here.

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  1. We have ours, but I don’t want the rest to have theirs… So I don’t care about these stupid Kuznets curves!

  2. Well, duh.

  3. although New Yorkers aren’t much different from other affluent urbanites

    I don’t think he his taking into account all the costs to ship goods (especially food) into the island of Manhattan. Lots of trucks and trains using lots of energy.

  4. Sure. A clean environment is a luxury good.

    Although I will note that the Green’s anti-development (in deed if not word) agenda for the Third World will result, if implemented, in Third World countries to the far left of the chart, where their environmental impact is less than that of a wealthy developed country. So, there is some internal consistency as applied to keeping the utterly impoverished that way.

  5. Nick shouldn’t be casting aspersions on Katherine, because she has the best record in this regard. In fact, I believed she introduced Hit & Run to the Lobster Girl of fame and fortune.

  6. Kunitz curve, i dont think they make that one yet, i think my easton stick is a Sakic Curve.

  7. Let’s see, by measuring just one pollutant (SO2), we can generalize that all pollution is falling. Not so, note the disclaimer: “I’m not trying to argue that all environmental problems fit these curves, or that these improvements happen automatically.” Indeed, to say nothing of resource depletion, land use issues, or other environmental problems.

  8. Nick has better curves in his post.

  9. When I read the headline, I was hoping for KMW’s swimsuit pics, or perhaps her modeling of the green Orion slave girl look from Star Trek. Leaving disappointed.

  10. ORION SLAVE GIRL IS NOT A LOOK, IT IS A WAY OF LIFE.

  11. yep kunitz uses an Iginla curve. He does not have his curve as of yet, lol

  12. According to the wildly controversial Mark Penn, 98% of H&R commenters are lonely, frustrated men who have never been published in the Wall Street Journal.

  13. A clean environment is a luxury good.

    No, a clean environment was what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.

  14. A clean environment is a luxury good.

    No, a clean environment and a thrity year mean lifespan waswere what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.

    FTFY.

  15. The idea of humans detrimentally altering the environment was around long before the industrial revolution. But of course talking about guys in loin clothes trading seashells and giant 40 ton rocks as currency doesn’t have nearly enough hyperbole.

  16. bah, I learned this in my conservation biology class

  17. Escaped,

    Nowhere do I (or any other mainstream environmentalist) claim that industrialization is a universal bad. All I’m saying is that it has certain negative consequences that need to be addressed if we want to go on living lives in the manner to which we are accustomed.

    The idea of humans detrimentally altering the environment was around long before the industrial revolution. But of course talking about guys in loin clothes trading seashells and giant 40 ton rocks as currency doesn’t have nearly enough hyperbole.

    Indeed, humans have managed to make populations of themselves extinct via environmental harm long before industrialization. Thanks for making my point for me.

  18. No, a clean environment was what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.

    Is smallpox clean?

  19. , humans have managed to make populations of themselves extinct via environmental harm long before industrialization. Thanks for making my point for me.

    Oddly enough extinction of the population isn’t generally thought to have occurred in the broad sense of the statement. The silly humans either moved on or solved the problem. Thank you for proving my point for me.

  20. Is smallpox clean?

    You need to stop assuming anyone advocating for some response to environmental harm is a Gaia-worshiping nut who wants us all to live in mud huts.

  21. The silly humans either moved on or solved the problem.

    Maybe so. I don’t consider “enough people left to keep the species viable” a terribly good result.

  22. Tony,
    Split what hairs you want, non-industrial living means back-breaking labor, limited life choices, highly stratified societies, and (at most) the merest trickle of cool technological tools.

    Cool tools like antibiotics and other medicines. Like light and functional prosthesis. You won’t miss the diagnostic scanning devices much: your doctor couldn’t do anything for if he could make a diagnosis.

    You can’t have it both ways.

  23. Is smallpox clean?

    You need to stop assuming anyone advocating for some response to environmental harm is a Gaia-worshiping nut who wants us all to live in mud huts.

    ::checks back::

    Yup. You’re the one who brought up industrialization.

    Perhaps you’d like to reconsider that move?

    Maybe you’re willing to compromise on the “gotta give up industry to have a good environment” stance? Just a little?

  24. I’m not advocating, nor do I know anyone who is, for the abolishment of industrial society. I’m just taking issue with the converse of the position you’re accusing me of taking: that industrialization is all good and no bad.

  25. C’mon guys, you know the answer: if the *right people* were in charge of science and technological progress….

  26. “No, a clean environment was what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.”

    I call Bullshit (literally)

    (Posted earlier today on the Modern Agriculture thread.)

    This is somewhat tangential re environmentalists:

    Prior to their mass slaughter, there were an estimated 60 million American bison roaming the within the boundaries of the present say USA

    According to the FDA, on January 1, 2008 the total number of U.S. cattle was 96.7 million head.

    Prior to their mass slaughter, there were an estimated 60 million American bison roaming within the boundaries of the present say USA.

    Did those bison cause environmental havoc? Absolutely. The herds were so large it could take days for one of them to cross a river. Imagine the water quality after days upon days of bison continuously shitting in the river. A parallel would be caribou migrating across the Thelon river up in Canada (north of the Arctic Circle) that render the normally pristine river water undrinkable due to high concentrations of e-coli bacteria.

    After the bison had crossed / contaminated the river, how ling do you think it took for the river to right itself? Keep in mind that these herds migrated year round throughout a good chunk of the USA.

    Now granted, 97 million head of cattle is about 60% greater than 60 million bison, but also keep in mind that there is waste management of cattle crap these days.

    Just sayin’.

  27. Sun rises in East, film at 11.

  28. No, a clean environment was what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.

    Is cholera clean? How about typhus? Black plague? Dysentery?

  29. According to the wildly controversial Mark Penn, 98% of H&R commenters are lonely, frustrated men who have never been published in the Wall Street Journal.

    For once I’m in the majority! 😉

  30. No, a cleandirty environment and a thrity year mean lifespan waswere what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.

    Refixed. The environment was filthy, especially in the cities, pre-Industrial Revolution.

  31. Thanks, robc.

    I was thinking rather farther back than that, but the point is well made.

  32. 98% of H&R commenters are lonely, frustrated men who have never been published in the Wall Street Journal.

    I resemble that remark.

  33. “No, a clean environment was what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.”

    Yay! We may have eaten food that would never pass an FDA or health department inspection, had no antibiotics or antivirals, been mostly at the mercy of the elements, taken a day to walk distances someone can drive in half an hour, lived in mud huts, gotten eaten by animals, and crapped in the woods, but thank gawd the earth didn’t warm, on average, by a degree every century! All of these extravagant luxuries we have today aren’t nearly worth the loss of a less warm world!

  34. You can’t clean nature with nature!

  35. The Kuznets Curves have that shape because of environmental regulation. As people get richer, they want a cleaner environment and they have the capacity to do more harm to the environment. Eventually the desire for a cleaner environment manifests itself in environmental regulations. Some pollutants, like wood smoke, can right themselves because a lot of the effects from them fall on the person emitting them (air quality in a home with a wood burning stove is truly awful), but most pollutants have dispersed enough effects that, even if they want less air pollution, rational, self interested consumers won’t curb their own emissions much at all because everyone else pays the cost and they get the benefits. For CO2, this is true in spades; I strongly prefer a world without global warming, but would not be able to tell the difference between a world where I spent every dollar I earned in the most CO2 emitting way possible and the one in which I emitted no CO2 at all. I would vote for regulations that curb everyone’s emissions, but the only reason I would curb my own unilaterally would be to feel better about myself.

  36. mass education and technology > government regulation

  37. Is cholera clean? How about typhus? Black plague? Dysentery?

    You’re all really missing the fucking point. I’m talking about a specific problem related to a specific cause. CO2 production and industrialization.

    I’m not saying industrialization is not mostly good, or that things were better before it. I’m just admitting it has its negatives, including the massive problem of climate change. You guys acknowledge this all the time when you poke environmentalist arguments in the eye with India and China and their development.

    Oh but thanks for punctuating your strawman with a little convenient ignorance of scientific reality. Really helps you parachute out of the consequences of your ideas, doesn’t it?

  38. mass education and technology > government regulation

    That means some force has to compel mass education and technology, doesn’t it?

  39. Jorgen,

    Great post.

  40. I’m not saying industrialization is not mostly good, or that things were better before it. I’m just admitting it has its negatives

    That might be what you thought you were doing, Tony. But what you did was put on you Luddite costume and come running up to heave your wooden shoes at “industrialization” without really thinking it through.

    The evils we can expect from global warming simply pale by comparison to the suffering implicit in trying to roll back industrial civilization.

    Suck it up. Admit that you misspoke, and move on.

  41. Can I please have another spoonful of acorn mush?

  42. The evils we can expect from global warming simply pale by comparison to the suffering implicit in trying to roll back industrial civilization.

    Nobody wants to roll back civilization. Nobody. We just want to modernize it in a way that does less damage to the environment. And if you were acquainted with scientific reality you’d be aware that there are few problems as serious as global warming.

  43. The evils we can expect from global warming simply pale by comparison to the suffering implicit in trying to roll back industrial civilization.

    Nobody wants to roll back civilization. Nobody. We just want to modernize it in a way that does less damage to the environment.

    Which would be why in a thread concerning the Kuznet curve choose to write:

    A clean environment is a luxury good.

    No, a clean environment was what we had before the luxury good of industrialization came into existence.

    How very foolish of me. It obvious that you’re gung ho for the improvements that more technology will bring.

    I feel so foolish now.

    /sarcasm

  44. Nobody wants to roll back civilization. Nobody.

    Nobody ever wants to get in a traffic accident either, but they do nonetheless. Nobody ever wants to go bankrupt, but people do all the time. No one ever wants to cause an economy to bork itself, but they manage to do it anyway.

    Get the picture?

    And if you were acquainted with scientific reality you’d be aware that there are few problems as serious as global warming.

    Let’s see now, I’m a dirt poor 3rd world citizen, about half the world’s population. What is my more pressing problem? Clean water? Enough food to eat? Adequate sanitation? Minimal health care? Hyperinflation? Tribal violence? A corrupt govt and military? Or a poorly understood problem that is largely speculative and might be a problem in 100 years?

    Hmmmmmm…..

    You’re all really missing the fucking point.

    You sure about that? Everyone else here seems to understand what you do not.

  45. How much of this is due to exporting pollution? Most heavy manufacturing leaves the rich countries on the far right due to higher wages and clean air demanded by citizens* and go to countries further to the left on the curve. The ones on the far left are not developed or educated enough to export factories to, but the ones in the middle are. This makes the rich countries pollute less and the poorer ones pollute more. A lot of the drop of pollution in the US is due to manufacturing moving to places like China and their pollution going up.

    * See protests in China against pollution.

  46. GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!

    WE’RE ALL GONNNA DIEE!

  47. That means some force has to compel mass education and technology, doesn’t it?

    Are you trying to suggest that education of the masses and technology are solely driven or best driven by government and regulation?

  48. Are you trying to suggest that education of the masses and technology are solely driven or best driven by government and regulation?

    It does a lot better than the market by itself when the beneficiaries are meant to be everyone commonly and when there are specific goals in mind.

    Explain the mechanism by which the market can provide equitable education to every single child. Explain how it will cope with global warming. Since it has never done either–in the latter case, the market has deliberately stonewalled on the effort–at best you have no evidence that it’s superior.

  49. Tony, your “right person” is in charge. How come he hasn’t fixed things with his magic wand already?

    Fucking leftist retard.

  50. JB,

    You’re right. A president should be able to solve all the world’s problems in 3 months. Guess he’s a failure. Or maybe Ron Paul hasn’t let him have the magic wand?

  51. “You’re right. A president should be able to solve all the world’s problems in 3 months.”

    Tony’s right. Obama never promised to solve all the world’s problems. He promised to bring “change”. And I don’t think he lied about that. I’m pretty sure we’ll start feeling the change very soon, right in the butt, with no lubricant.

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