Download Economic Development vs the Environment

yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts

Degrowth wikipedia , lookup

Steady-state economy wikipedia , lookup

Economic Development vs the Environment
Summary: Is the economic development of developing countries more important than
protecting the environment?
Point: Taking care of millions of people who are starving is more important than saving
natural resources, most of which are renewable anyway. We cannot expect developing
nations to share the green concerns of developed countries when they are faced with dire
poverty and a constant battle for survival.
Counter-point: We have already wasted and destroyed vast amounts of natural
resources, and in so doing have put earth at risk. We must preserve the earth for our
children and grandchildren. In any case, poverty and environmental damage are often
linked. Destroying the rainforest gives native peoples nowhere to go except urban slums.
Polluted water can lead to crop failures. Climate change will turn fertile fields into desert
and flood coastal areas where hundreds of millions live. Developing countries have to
choose sustainable development if they want a future for their people.
Point: The industrialised world’s emphasis on green issues holds back developing
countries. Because this is seen as interference in their affairs, it also contributes to a
greater divide between the First and Third worlds. Many also believe it is a deliberate
attempt to stop possible economic competitors. After all, the USA and EU already put
high tariffs (import taxes) on products made cheaply in developing countries (e.g. canned
tomatoes, shoes) which could be sold in America or Europe. By limiting the development
of profitable but polluting industries like steel or oil refineries we are forcing nations to
remain economically backward.
Counter-point: No one wants to stop economic progress that could give millions better
lives. But we must insist on sustainable development that combines environmental care,
social justice and economic growth. Earth cannot support unrestricted growth. Companies
in developed countries already have higher costs of production because of rules to protect
the environment. It is unfair if they then see their prices undercut by goods produced
cheaply in developing countries at the cost of great pollution.
Point: Economic development is vital for meeting the basic needs of the growing
populations of developing countries. If we do not allow them to industrialise, these
nations will have to bring in measures to limit population growth just to preserve vital
resources such as water.
Counter-point: Unchecked population growth has a negative impact on any nation, as
well as on the whole planet. Both the poverty and the environmental problems of subSaharan Africa are largely the result of rapid population growth putting pressure on
limited resources. At the same time China has become wealthy while following a “onechild” per couple policy. Limiting population growth will result in a higher standard of
living and will preserve the environment.
Point: Obviously the world would be better if all nations stuck to strict environmental
rules. The reality is that for many nations such rules are not in their interests. For
example, closing China’s huge Capital Iron and Steelworks, a major source of pollution,
would cost 40 000 jobs. The equal application of strict environmental policies would
create huge barriers to economic progress, at a risk to political stability.
Counter-point: Nations are losing more from pollution than they are gaining from
industrialisation. China is a perfect example. Twenty years of uncontrolled economic
development have created serious, chronic air and water pollution. This has increased
health problems and resulted in annual losses to farmers of crops worth billions of
dollars. So uncontrolled growth is not only bad for the environment, it is also makes no
economic sense.
Point: Rapid industrialisation does not have to put more pressure on the environment.
Scientific advances have made industries much less polluting. And developing countries
can learn from the environmental mistakes of the developed world’s industrial revolution,
and from more recent disasters in communist countries such as China and the USSR. For
example, efficient new steelworks use much less water, raw materials and power, while
producing much less pollution than traditional factories. And nuclear generating plants
can provide more energy than coal while contributing far less to global warming. We are
also exploring alternative, renewable types of energy such as solar, wind and hydropower.
Counter-point: Counter-point: Scientific progress has made people too confident in their
abilities to control their environment. In just half a century the world’s nuclear industry
has had at least three serious accidents: Windscale (UK, 1957), Three Mile Island (USA,
1979), and Chernobyl (USSR, 1986). In addition, the nuclear power industry still cannot
store its waste safely. Hydro-power sounds great but damming rivers is itself damaging to
the environment. It also forces huge numbers of people off their land – as in China’s 3
Gorges project.
Point: It is hypocritical (two-faced and unfair) for rich developed countries to demand
that poorer nations make conservation their priority. After all, they became rich in the
first place by destroying their environment in the industrial revolution. Now that they
have cut down their own trees, polluted their water sources and poured billions of tons of
carbon into the air, they are in no position to tell others to behave differently. In any case,
as countries become richer they become more concerned about the environment, and can
afford to do something about it. For developing countries conservation can therefore wait
until they are richer.
Counter-point: Looking after our fragile world has to be a partnership. Climate change
will affect the whole planet, not just the developed world. In fact it is likely to have
particularly terrible effects on developing countries as sea levels rise, deserts advance,
and natural disasters become more common. It is no use Europe trying to cut its
emissions into the atmosphere if unchecked growth in China and India leads to much
greater overall pollution. Instead, developed countries need to transfer greener
technologies to the developing world, paying for environmental protection and making
sustainability a condition for aid.
Point: The “Green Revolution” has doubled the size of grain harvests. Thus, cutting
down more forests to provide more space for crops is no longer necessary. We now have
the knowledge to feed the world’s increasing population without harming the
environment. Genetically modified crops can also benefit the developing world by
requiring much less water, fertiliser or pesticide use while giving better yields. This is
another example of economic development leading to environmental benefits.
Counter-point: The Green Revolution is threatening the biodiversity of the Third World
by replacing native seeds with hybrids. We do not know what the long-term
environmental or economic consequences will be. We do know that in the short run, such
hybrid crops can cause environmental problems by crowding out native plants and the
wildlife which relies on them. The farmer growing hybrid crops must buy costly new
seed every year because it cannot be saved to plant the following year’s crops. Farmers
using hybrid seeds in what was the richest part of India went bankrupt. As a result, fertile
lands lay idle and unploughed, resulting in droughts and desertification.
From the International Debate Education Association -
Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren: Most Economists
Predict a Bright Future
June 20, 2007
Will our children and grandchildren live in a better world, or will economic and social
conditions decline? Every culture has worried over this question—often for good reason.
One would think that modern man, living amid ever-rising material comforts and a
security unimagined by his ancestors, would have moved beyond this fear. But despite
our growing prosperity there is a renewed fear in many quarters that we are living on
borrowed time, because we’re running out of resources and endangering our very
Once, economists would have been counted among the pessimists. The moniker “the
dismal science” surely stuck for such a long time because so many economists followed
the lead of Thomas Malthus, who predicted that population growth in the face of resource
constraints would inevitably squelch hopes for a broad-based rise in standards of living.
Today, however, there are strong indications that the fog of gloom among economists has
evaporated. The evidence of more than two centuries of burgeoning economic growth
worldwide is hard to refute, and economists have revised their expectations and models in
this light. Economic histories now bear titles like Growth Triumphant; a history of
twentieth-century global investment is titled Triumph of the Optimists; and introductory
textbooks work through the New Growth Theory, forecasting unchecked economic
growth and likening the economy to a perpetual motion machine.
Further evidence that it’s time to rename economics the “cheerful science” comes from a
recent survey I conducted of professional economists. I found that by wide margin
economists are exceptionally optimistic about the future of the American economy: most
predict that the robust economic growth of our recent history will continue into the
foreseeable future. My respondents’ median prediction is that per capita income in the
United States will grow at a rate slightly less than the 2 percent inflation-adjusted growth
rate of the past sixty years. Almost half forecast a growth rate equal to or greater than 2
percent. Only one economist in my poll predicts economic decline for our grandchildren.
If my respondents are correct and economic growth continues at this pace, incomes will
rise more than three-fold in the next sixty years—average incomes would equal
approximately $147,000 in today’s dollars. If the growth rate does dip slightly, say to 1.8
percent per annum, incomes would almost triple, rising to only $131,000. These
predictions are eye-popping.
In addition, economists believe that the U.S. will continue to be one of the world’s richest
countries sixty years from now. Twenty-eight percent predict that the U.S. will have the
highest per capita income in the world six decades from now. The largest group, 71
percent, expects the U.S. to be “not the highest, but in the top tier.” Again, only a single
pessimist predicts that the U.S. will fall from the top tier.
Finally, economists expect that within the next couple of generations many (perhaps
most) countries and regions that are currently poor and economically underdeveloped
will achieve standards of living equaling or surpassing today’s level in the richest
countries. My survey asked: “Sixty years from now what countries or regions (if any)
will have joined the group of developed nations with an income per capita approximately
equaling or surpassing today’s level in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and Western
Europe?” Of those who answered the question, 62 percent put China on the list, twothirds mentioned other places in East Asia, one-third mentioned India, and 40 percent
selected all or parts of Latin America—with Chile mentioned most frequently, followed
by Brazil and Mexico. Unfortunately, the vast majority also believe that deep poverty
will persist in Sub-Saharan Africa for generations to come.
The bottom line is that most economists are very optimistic about the economic future of
almost all the world. They find pessimism implausible because the forces that have
driven past growth—the accelerating pace of technological innovation and the strong
incentives embedded in the capitalist system that steer us around potential roadblocks—
aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon. Moreover, the consensus among economists is
that climate change has very little potential to slow down our economic growth machine.
Rather, economists identify the major challenges facing the American economy over the
next sixty years as coping with the effects of an aging population and flaws in the Social
Security system, exploding health care and health insurance costs, and our inefficient
educational system.
Perhaps it’s time for us to stop worrying about a future of deprivation and finally learn
how to handle unrelenting prosperity.
From the The Independent Institute –