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Subject:

RE: environmental optimism (and Prince Charles)

From:

David Steven <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

David Steven <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 18 May 2000 16:19:06 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (89 lines)

Simon - an increasing proportion of pollution **is** coming from the
developing world and the curve is rising very fast.  The argument I was
making was that this trend will only reverse with economic development (the
kuznet's curve) - action on poverty and action on the environment thus go
hand in hand.

Also, as you say, one picks ones pollutants to make different cases.  You
might look at CO2 - I might look at indoor pollution from biomass etc, which
helps make respiratory illnesses one of the most important killers of the
world's children.

On global warming - as I said, I don't know how bad the effects will be
(whether the part of the UK where I live will disappear under water, for
example) and don't pretend to.

David

-------------------------------------
David Steven
River Path Associates
http://www.riverpath.com
[log in to unmask]
+44 (0)1202 849993 (work)
+44 (0)7939 038832 (mobile)
61a West Borough, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 1LX, UK


-----Original Message-----
From: Simon Dresner [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 18 May 2000 15:40
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: RE: environmental optimism (and Prince Charles)


At 09:12 18/05/00 +0100, David Steven wrote:

 >However, because mortality falls before fertility, population has
increased.
 >More people, more cities. More cities, more environmental damage. And, as
 >a result, an increased proportion of environmental damage comes from poor
 >countries. Poverty correlates with environmental damage, first, because
the
 >poor cannot afford to bear the cost of environmental protection and,
second,
 >because basic technologies tend to be dirtier and less efficient. As
 >economies progress, more money is spent on, for example, cleaner
factories.
 >Thus the Kuznet's Curve.

This is a lovely idea. The only problem is that it isn't quite true. The 
rich consume far more resources per capita (and produce far more pollution) 
than the poor. The industrialised 20% of the world population consumes 60% 
of the energy (and produces a similar proportion of the CO2 emissions) - 
six times as much per capita as the average in the rest of the world. North 
Americans consume 28 times as much energy as Africans. So much for the 
environmental Kuznets curve. The 'evidence' for it is found not by looking 
at total environmental impact, but by carefully selecting certain 
pollutants that have been the target of strong regulatory action and 
showing that their concentrations have fallen in rich countries. But it 
takes no account of actual environmental footprint of rich societies on the 
world as a whole. As they consume more resources, that is actually 
increasing. It's just that the impact is being globalised, so it is less 
apparent in a naive analysis.

 >So, in conclusion, environmental improvements do seem to rely on economic
 >development, more sophisticated technologies and human ingenuity (which is
 >where science comes in). As to whether environmental damage can be
 >repaired, often it seems it can. Many so-called reversible cases have
 >indeed been reversed - sometimes astonishingly quickly, as ecosystems
prove
 >themselves more robust than believed. This is most easily demonstrated on
a
 >smaller scale. Whether macro-environmental damage (global warming, for
 >example) will have irreversible effects, I really cannot say.

Another lovely idea! Tell it to the countless thousands of species that 
have been made extinct by human beings over the last few centuries.

I would love to hear the explanation of the putative mechanism which could 
reverse global warming in less than the centuries the climatologists 
predict. There is a huge thermal inertia in the oceans, which has kept the 
level of warming down so far. The oceans are gradually heating up. Once 
heated, it will similarly take them a very long time to cool down again, 
even if CO2 emissions disappeared.

Simon Dresner


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