GECON200-Topic #4: Growth and the Environment

The recession in the U.S. has put jobs and the economy back at the top of most Americans’ list of national priorities ahead of the environment. A running Gallup Poll notes that Americans for only the second time since the 1980s believe that economic growth should be prioritized even at the risk of environmental degradation.What might be surprising is that fewer than 50% of Democrats think the environment should be prioritized even if it hinders economic growth (signaling a new low). Even more surprising might be that an increasing number of Americans think that their environment is excellent or good (the highest rate since 2002). So, has the environment really improved all that much, or have perceptions been altered because of the economic reality that is facing most Americans?

Sam Graves (R-MO) recently said:

It is time to shelve the job-killing healthcare, cap-and-trade and financial regulatory reform bills and start over on new legislation that will address the problems faced by our nation without punishing our economic growth. We must also make a renewed commitment to fiscal responsibility and show small-business owners that Washington is capable of making the same tough budgetary decisions that entrepreneurs must make every day.

Comments like Graves, give pause to any optimism that might have come out of the environmental meetings in Copenhagen. China and India recently joined the Copenhagen (non-binding) climate accord, which lends some credibility to the agreement, but probably doesn’t go very far towards actually protecting the environment. Recent news reports have stated that the environment in China is degrading, and not improving. Most of the reason for the environmental degradation in China is due to their rapid growth over the past 30 years. India has it’s own problems, but pledges to green technology offer some promise as a way to grow responsibly.

Positions you might consider:

  • Do you believe that the environment or economic growth are incompatible goals? Provide evidence or estimates to support your opinion.
  • If growth and environmental improvement are not compatible goals, which do you believe is more important? Provide evidence or estimates to support your opinion.
  • What are the long term growth impacts of not considering the environment as a short-term goal? Provide evidence or estimates to support your opinion.

22 thoughts on “GECON200-Topic #4: Growth and the Environment”

  1. The relationship between economic growth and the environment is multifaceted and compatible to an extent. I have found that a lot of the time, the US has exported its pollution to countries like India and China. Because so many goods are produced in China, China is currently the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, with the US lingering closely in second place (1). This emissions overload will probably pile pressure onto global politicians to implement a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. In order for wealth to be transformed into higher environmental standards in countries like China and India, the United States needs to make drastic changes in the way energy is produced and consumed. This has started to be done by moving away from using carbon and nuclear power and excessive amounts of coal towards heavily investing in solar, wind, and alternative energy. With the world in an unprecedented worldwide recession, it is uncertain that governments can be depended on to produce and sustain the necessary affluence to make changes. According to the costs and benefits principal, global environmental policy will only become “greener” if it becomes economically profitable for countries to do so. Because unproven clean coal and carbon capture technologies are considerably more expensive to implement and produce, countries such as China and India continue using obsolete and contaminated coal/carbon technology (2).

    An active cap-and-trade market, which would enable those who can reduce pollution cheaply to earn a return on their pollution reduction investment by selling extra allowances, is probably the best way to solve this seemingly cyclical quandary. This will permit those who cannot reduce pollution as cheaply to purchase allowances at a lower cost than the cost of reducing their own emissions and enables all participants to meet the total emissions cap cost-effectively (3). If the U.S. adopts this system, it will in turn provide incentives for countries such as China and India to innovate and find the least-cost solutions for total pollution control.

    Sources:

    1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/jun/19/china.usnews

    2) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/world/asia/11coal.html

    3) http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1085

    1. The cap-and-trade reform that is being pursued now is pointless and ineffective. The reward for one corporation to “go green,” is for another corporation to pay them so that they’re allowed to release more pollution (1). While pollution may be reduced slightly across the board because of the allowances placing limits, the system of encouragement is entirely contradictory. If a company is capable of reducing its pollutant output to a point lower than is required, it should be assumed that it is possible for all companies to do the same. Therefore, every producer should be expected to match these limits imposed, not swap around allowances to try to gain the ability to still “harm the environment” more than others. Force them to pay exorbitant fines, and the environment will improve. Guaranteed.

      [1] http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eed.nsf/webpages/EconomicIncentives.html

      1. Saying that the cap-and-trade reform is pointless and ineffective is not only a temerarious statement, but also a paradox in itself; for both connotatively and denotatively, a reform is beneficial to society as a whole. There are two crucial concepts incorporated in the business world. First off, a vast majority of businesses runs to make a profit. Secondly, in order to succeed and run efficiently, costs and benefit analysis is used in day-to-day business decision-making. Certain businesses aren’t going to be able to afford new technology and rid themselves of the older and more detrimental ones if it is not economically profitable for them to do so. In other words, their costs exceed their benefits, so they’re not going to make a decision that is detrimental towards their profit. As your source says, “Trading programs are cost-effective approaches to environmental protection because firms are granted the flexibility to either reduce their own emissions or purchase pollution “allowances” from other firms who have reduced below their required level.” You’re saying that just because one company can reduce its pollutant output, all other companies should be able to do the same. And your solution would be to force businesses that don’t reduce their pollutant output enough due to stringent factors that put pressure on their budgets to pay exorbitant fines. This is highly unrealistic and improbable, seeing that realistically, different business have different financial needs. Besides the amount of reduction of emissions produced would be the same in your proposition as it would in the cap-and-trade system. However, your proposition, good sir, would be a pain-in-the-butt for those who would have to pay exorbitant fines, piling onto their already-strained finances.

        Sources:
        1)http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/eed.nsf/webpages/EconomicIncentives.html

  2. The average person produces 26 ton of carbon dioxide per year; six five-year old pine trees absorb 1 ton of carbon dioxide per year and if you have not noticed, we are producing more humans much faster than we are replanting trees (1). Since the time of the Industrial Revolution, those in developed countries have face the dilemma of, “Progress or preservation?” The irony is, there should not be a dichotomy because to have progress, one much preserve that which allows progress to occur: resources, breathable air, and a viable planet on which to progress. As a species, we place values on that which we produce, five dollars for a sandwich, ten dollars for a movie ticket, etc… but we do not consider the value of what has already been put in place by nature, i.e. how much we as a species would have to spend to attempt to duplicate what nature has produced or what it would cost the global economy if such a resource were lost. Coral reefs alone provide $172,000,000,000 (billion, zeros added for emphasis) worth of income to the global economy (2). As much as humans like to think we are better than nature, or can somehow conquer it, nature was doing just fine before we showed up. To illustrate, it would have cost Vietnam 7.3 million dollars to repair a system of dykes that was saved by planting only 1.1 million dollars worth of mangrove trees along the cost line (2). Environmentalism pays us back. To put it in economics terms, for the money invested in conservation the returns for that investment are estimated as follows: coral reefs return 7%, rivers return 27%, tropical forests return 50%, and grasslands return 79% (2). For the investment of $45 billion, for the entire world, $4,500,000,000,000-$5,200,000,000,000 (trillion, zeros added, once again, for emphasis) worth of nature-based services could be secured (2). I feel as though as sensible economist might well wet his/herself at such a cost-benefit opportunity.

    The environment must be managed, and there must be people to do so because if history shows anything, human beings can, and will, screw things up, and then pay someone to fix it. I do not believe, however, that the responsibility should be given to the government alone; the scope of the problem is too large for one institution. Instead, the government should set up initiative for the private sector to move towards environmental stability. It should then be up to states to make progress toward green jobs or be penalized because as economist Van Jones states, “…peak oil and the threat posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases mean that in the future the only jobs left will be green.”(3) So my question is, why wait until we have to? We have the innovation and the affluence to get ahead of the game and set the example for the rest of the world.

    (1) http://www.erasecarbonfootprint.com/treeoffset.html
    (2) http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/11/01/value.nature.conservation/index.html
    (3) http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/03/creating-green-jobs-sensible-aspiration-governments.php

    1. I think that for the US to be innovators in the current state that we are in would be irresponsible. It would be idealistic to think that firms could also be enviornmentalists because firms act in a way that is most cost effective. Currently, cost effectiveness comes at the expense of a clean enviornment. Only when we see people producing new, cost effective ways that are also enviornmentally friendly will be see economic growth and production compatible with enivornmental preservation

    2. Although I am quite intrigued by your compelling statistics, I must disagree with your end statement about having the affluence to get ahead of the game and set an example for the rest of the world. Sure, the United States has the potential to make a huge impact on other countries, but the way you stated it seems a bit optimistic considering the economic state we are currently in, which ties into Brian’s comment about cost effectiveness. Businesses aren’t going to want to become greener if it isn’t economically profitable for them to do so. Additionally, in order for a country to be a positive role model and set an example for others, they must learn to fix their internal issues as well. For example, after China, the United States is currently the second highest CO2 emitter in the entire world (1). We need to learn to address (and minimize) these internal issues before we boldly try to set examples for other countries. To end on a positive note, I did like how you stated that the scope of the problem is too large for one institution (albeit a large one). Also, because each state may have different areas of focus, it may be a positive thing for the states to each have their own responsibility on establishing environmental stability through establishing green jobs and dealing with consequences if they fail to do so effectively.

      Source Used:

      1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/jun/19/china.usnews

      1. “Businesses aren’t going to want to become greener if it isn’t economically profitable for them to do so.”

        That’s why we should try to make clean energy cheap.

        “We need to learn to address (and minimize) these internal issues before we boldly try to set examples for other countries.”

        Aren’t we setting an example for other countries by fixing our internal issues? That’s the definition of setting an example…

  3. Right now, both seem like incompatible goals. But I think with focus and a realistic goal on economic growth, I think environmental growth can come as well.

    I think the government needs to start by showing small businesses that they are trying to help out in times when just staying afloat is the business’ main concern. Since “entrepreneurs are vital to economic growth and, consequently, to higher living standards,” incentives or economics policies should be created to help them out (1). Maybe then more people who have been laid off and jobless for a while won’t hesitate to become an entrepreneur, and businesses will try to improve or expand (2).

    If small businesses expand, they will be more willing to hire new workers, creating jobs. Creating jobs should be the number 1 priority in this recession. Especially since households are focused on the necessities such as paying bills, paying college tuitions/loans, and food and such. People no longer making the wages they are used to living on will not be concerned about switching to environmentally friendly or green methods, but instead will use what costs the least. The official blog of the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) asked a Question of the Day, saying what trade offs families are willing to make to improve the environment. The majority of people answered with things such as, stop idling my car, or not drinking bottled water, or riding their bike more. Few people actually said they would pay more money for eco-friendly products and homes (3). Right now, families cannot afford to pay the money to convert their homes, even if that is what’s desired. One family paid $10,000 to make their home “green” (4). Personally, my dad being unemployed for the past 8 months, I know my family would not pay $10,000 to convert our home, but rather use it to get 3 children through college at the same time, and pay all the other bills, and still have some extra cash for fun or vacation.

    There are some countries focusing on the environment such as China’s, since its harm to the environment is increasing due to its high economic growth rate. As a result of this, China is joining forces to improve the environment, just as Indian has: ““The agreement also calls for spending as much as $100 billion a year to help emerging countries adapt to climate change and develop low-carbon energy systems, to bring energy technology more quickly to the developing world and to take steps to protect tropical forests from destruction” (5). I feel this money could be spent elsewhere, such as helping businesses(by maybe lowering regulations/taxes) and individuals who are suffering from this recession gain confidence and resources, instead of on this “going green” plan, which people who are suffering are not concerned about at the moment. But once people are living more comfortably, the environment should become a concern, and then, the government can start focusing on becoming eco-friendly!

    (1) http://www.dallasfed.org/educate/everyday/ev3.html
    (2) http://www.tradingmarkets.com/news/stock-alert/sbcod_ranking-member-graves-in-the-hill-it-s-time-for-a-commitment-to-real-growth-822540.html
    (3) http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2010/03/01/qotw-trade-offs/
    (4) http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/2007/01/01/8397399/index.htm
    (5) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/science/earth/10climate.html

  4. When it comes to growth and environment, American citizens believe that their country only has two options. Either Option A: to stimulate the economy, or option B: to protect the environment. What most don’t realize is that actually there is an option C: both! We can help the economy by helping the environment. Sure, the economy is a priority right now, but the environment can have some pretty nasty long-term effects (that not only affects the ecosystem, but also human health) if not taken care of. The EPA’s most recent health risk assessment estimates that 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year are due to radon, a radioactive naturally occurring gas that is odorless, colorless, and for the most part undetectable without testing. Not to mention that currently one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. (1) I believe everyone will agree with me when I say that personal health should be held above over all other things. According to a report by Environment Ohio, “America can reduce global warming pollution by nearly 10 percent annually, reduce oil consumption by more than 25 million barrels annually, and create or sustain more than 3 million jobs by making investment in clean energy and transportation a cornerstone of our economic recovery plan.” (2) By creating green jobs, this can bring thousands of American citizens back into the ‘employed category.’ With more green jobs, this means that the United States can focus more on domestic production of renewable energy sources and stop relying so much on foreign supplies, which will help maintain control over spending and investing.

    This does not hold just for the United States only, but also for foreign countries as well. China, being the top emitter for green house gases, is in a worse state than the U.S. is. In China, “coal burning is a major culprit, providing the nation with up to 70 percent of its energy needs, but city waste and run-off from agriculture is also severely fouling the nation’s water supply.” (3) If China does not invest in alternative energy sources, their environmental state will surely worsen.

    To sum it up, we can’t just focus on the economy and ignore the degradation of the environment, and we can’t just focus on protecting the environment while letting the economy crash and burn. There has to be an equal amount of focus, a balance, between the two.

    Sources:
    1. http://www.epa.gov/epahome/enviroq/index.htm
    2. http://www.environmentohio.org/reports/energy/energy-program-reports/clean-energy-bright-future-rebuilding-america-through-green-infrastructure
    3. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hCjnpTJ1q3S1HPTkGnTCuVyCttLg

  5. We often look at the environment and the economy as two separate bullet points on the government’s agenda but in reality, these issues are related in a cause and effect system. According to the Fourth U.S. Climate Action Report published in 2004, economic and industrial advances are leading factors in the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and further causes such as increased travel and higher electricity and gas consumption logically ensue from these (2). But efforts to improve the environment are not necessarily compatible with efforts to improve the economy. The promise made by the United States in the international climate change agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% in a matter of ten years will require expensive technologies and activities that will impede our current progress toward economic recovery(1). This goal appears even more ambitious when one considers that in the 14 years between the first U.S. Climate Action Report in 1990 and the third in 2004, greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 15.8% (2).

    This is not the time to innovate and go out of our way to make all cars hybrids, install solar panels to every roof and plant new forests of trees but we should of course try to do what we can in refraining from using fossil fuels and reducing energy and gas consumption in order to work toward the goal set in Copenhagen.

    So while I believe the economy should be our primary focus now, we must also be mindful that our actions have consequences and careful not to create more work for ourselves by completely neglecting the environment because the environment and the economy really are interrelated issues.

    (1) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/science/earth/10climate.html
    (2)http://www.state.gov/g/oes/rls/rpts/car/90318.htm

  6. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, economic growth and environmental awareness have been diametrically opposed. But in the modern era, technological breakthroughs have made it possible to sustain growth while finding new technologies to reduce emissions and conserve resources.

    There is currently a piece of legislation travelling through Congress (by the request of President Obama) commonly known as “cap and trade”. It proposes a new tax on carbon emissions that will hypothetically decrease our dependence on fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Corporations will be given “carbon credits” that cap their carbon dioxide output, and corporations can trade their carbon credits with others or buy more from the government. In addition to energy limits on corporations, quotas will be set for individual Americans as well. The purpose of the tax is to force Americans to give up cheap, “dirty” energy for the sake of the environment, specifically to combat the global warming of the earth that has been linked to carbon dioxide emissions. This plan could have drastic negative effects on our economy (1, 2).

    This proposition is dangerous, not only to our economic well-being, but to our personal liberty as well. Government mandates on energy consumption conjure thoughts of a 1984 situation.

    In November of 2009, The Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (aka Hadley CRU) had its servers compromised and unintentionally leaked emails from the past few years (3). These leaked emails from CRU show that many top scientists responsible with publishing peer-reviewed evidence of global warming conspired to fudge the numbers that would fit with their global warming theory.

    Even if global warming is a hoax, we still need to strive to find new sustainable forms of energy, but not in the name of mass hysteria and urgency caused by the theory of global warming.

    If the Obama administration actually wants to decrease carbon emissions and find new sources of sustainable energy, it should try and make clean energy cheap, not make “dirty” energy expensive. “Public investment in clean energy is what is needed today, because no effort to achieve deep reductions in carbon emissions, domestic or international, will succeed as long as low-carbon energy technologies cost vastly more than current fossil fuel-based energy” (4).

    Basically, we need to establish grants and subsidies for alternative energy research by private firms. We should also give tax credits to families/businesses that convert their operations to relying on sustainable energy. Since oil and coal are still abundant today, laissez-faire economics will not necessarily push people to “go green”. Once oil and coal start becoming scarcer in the near future (which they will), the subsidies can be lifted and the free market will properly allow for a transition from “dirty” energy to clean, sustainable energy.

    (1) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/31/AR2009053102077.html
    (2) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124588837560750781.html
    (3) http://prevarication.net/2009/11/hacker-reveals-hadley-cru-global-warming-hoax/
    (4) http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2153

    1. Ryan, you make great points about the mass hysteria associated with global warming. I definitely agree with you there. However, I do not believe that the “cap-and-trade” proposition can be rightly juxtaposed with Orwell’s 1984 and be labeled as “dangerous”; that is a bit misleading and exaggerated if you ask me. Federal mandates have been around for years, and there’s usually a reason behind why they started in the first place. Without them, our country would lack proper regulation in areas showing that they are incapable of thriving on their own. I’m also not sure if I agree with your “it should try and make clean energy cheap, not make “dirty” energy expensive” statement. Making “dirty” energy expensive is effective in that it is a disincentive for companies to continue using “dirty” energy. Naturally, this will lead to a shift towards using clean energy methods, which will set a good example for other countries, such as China and India, to gear towards environmentally-friendly production, so long as their benefits exceed their costs of doing so. New methods of clean-energy productions will be introduced through investments, so I am sure this won’t be a huge problem. I also don’t believe that we should wait until the “near future” to hope for the free market to properly allow for a transition from “dirty” energy to clean, sustainable energy. No plan will ever be perfect for catering to these conflicting urgencies (the economy and the environment); however, the reason why I am a fan of the “cap-and-trade” system is because it enables all participants to meet the total emissions cap in a cost-effective manner. Trading carbon credits will stimulate the economy by creating government revenue and investments will be shifted into clean-energy technologies in the near future, along with the use of wind and solar power and energy efficiency.

      1. “Federal mandates have been around for years, and there’s usually a reason behind why they started in the first place. Without them, our country would lack proper regulation in areas showing that they are incapable of thriving on their own. ”

        Federal mandates are inherently unconstitutional, except for Congress’ right to nationalize state militias. Look up the 10th Amendment as well. Are you also saying that areas in America can’t thrive without federal regulation? This is absurd. It is usually federal regulation that hinders America and drives it towards inefficiency.

        “I’m also not sure if I agree with your “it should try and make clean energy cheap, not make “dirty” energy expensive” statement. Making “dirty” energy expensive is effective in that it is a disincentive for companies to continue using “dirty” energy. Naturally, this will lead to a shift towards using clean energy methods”

        And in the mean time, your energy prices will skyrocket as will the energy prices for firms, which will pass on their extra costs on to consumers. Companies that can survive with the heavy carbon tax will continue to survive, just producing higher cost energy with more pollution. Companies that aren’t so lucky will fail. So much for reducing pollution…

        How can you be against making “clean” energy cheap? We need incentives for innovation to be able to make sustainable energy sources affordable and widely available.

      2. Ryan, there is a reason why there exists a division of power between the federal and state governments. State governments are incapable of fully regulating themselves, and without the federal government, no sense of unity would be established. Tell me, why else do you think the Articles of Confederation failed?? To answer your question, I believe that there are areas of fiscal apportionment that are in need of and can utilize federal regulations in order to progress.
        Federal mandates are not malevolent, and they exist to serve the American people. Although not all of them have been 100% successful, a lot of them have been beneficial for society as a whole. If you would like some examples, here is a great website for you:
        http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-424392?ref=feeds%2Flatest

        Additionally, I never said that making clean energy cheap is a bad thing. Obviously, it is beneficial; however, I disagreed with your argument against making dirty energy expensive. I’m all for the two together. As I stated earlier, disincentives will lead to more beneficial methods of production, such as using cleaner energy. This is because of the costs and benefits principle. If a company can afford to reduce emissions, they will. Either way, emissions are being reduced and there are caps on the quantity of emissions that are allowed to be produced.
        “And in the mean time, your energy prices will skyrocket as will the energy prices for firms, which will pass on their extra costs on to consumers. Companies that can survive with the heavy carbon tax will continue to survive, just producing higher cost energy with more pollution. Companies that aren’t so lucky will fail. So much for reducing pollution…”
        If the companies face skyrocketing prices, they will have to make their profit by charging consumers more, and if this burden is passed on to consumers by the companies, consumers will switch providers or consume less if they see that switching providers proves to be a burden. This is yet another disincentive for companies to continue these detrimental habits, thus leading these rather affluent companies to switch to adopting more energy-efficient methods.

  7. I believe it is important to have a strong economy because in the 21st century wealth most often equals power in the international game. The economy should be our priority because without the power to stay sovereign, what good would a clean environment do if we no longer had control over it? I do believe though that we should do everything we can to preserve our resources short of taking an action that would severely impact our economic growth. A balance needs to be achieved. For example, an issue of debate over the past few years was whether or not to open the Alaskan Wildlife refuge for drilling. “…US consumes about 20 million barrels of oil per day, and at a rate of 1.5 million barrels per day from Alaska, 7.5% of America’s oil consumption could be met for over 20 years.” (1)Even though this is a fairly large amount I do not think it is significant enough to warrant 24 species being significantly impacted. (2) So, in this case I believe the environmentalists have a stronger argument.
    Also, I believe that if environmental regulations are going to be put in place, developing nations should be held to the same standards. Quite frankly, India, Brazil, China and Mexico all joined the game too late. They should not be allowed a greater level of emissions just because they are still industrializing. It may not seem fair but the world just cannot support every Chinese family owning multiple cars. If the growth of these newly industrializing countries is regulated we can help avoid putting extra pressure on the environment while we still holding our influential positions in intergovernmental organizations.(by not letting them get stronger economically)So, In sum I believe the economy is the first priority, but we should not completely forget about the at the same time. Also, developing nations should not be allowed greater leniency with emission for two reasons; one, because it is bad for the environment, and two, because we do not want developing nations to close the gap.

    1. http://www.ecoworld.com/energy-fuels/oil-drilling-in-alaska.html
    2. http://www1.american.edu/ted/alaska.htm

  8. Whether to prioritize in fixing the environmental or economical problems that we face today is a world-wide concern. However, I do not believe that we have to play favorites in this debate. I think that the environment and the economy are relatively interconnected, and if we take the right measures in each, we can improve both. The goods and services produced by the economy come at the expense of the goods and services produced by the environment. In order to manage this tradeoff we need new “green” technologies, more capital investments, better business management, and improved public support. For example, a tax of $80 a metric ton on carbon dioxide, or a cap-and-trade system with similar charges, would stabilize temperatures by midcentury. Under such a tax, the prices of goods would rise in proportion to their carbon footprints. In the case of gasoline, prices will increase by roughly $2.60 a gallon(1). This tax may not seem ideal to buyers, but it is a small cost, for a great impact on helping both the environment and economy. Europeans, many of whom already pay $4 a gallon more than Americans do for gasoline, have adapted to their higher prices with little difficulty (1).
    If simple actions like an increase in a specific tax, or investing in small business “innovators” in turn helps both the economy and the environment, why are we mostly focused on just fixing the economy when the environmental catastrophes that we face today are no joke? In 2009, Guatemala declared a “state of calamity” over shortage of food supply due to fewer rains. This climate change is only predicted to increase, accounting for loses of other crops across Central America. Rising sea levels and more intense seasonal floods may affect 160 million to 370 million people each year by the end of the century. By 2100 less rainfall and higher temperatures may increase the severity of droughts and reduce river flow up to 70%. (2). Aren’t these examples of what may happen reason enough to start caring more about how we use our environment? Unfortunately our reasoning for not taking action is ironically psychological.
    “Global warming is bad, but it doesn’t make us feel nauseated or angry or disgraced, and thus we don’t feel compelled to rail against it as we do against other momentous threats to our species, such as flag burning. Moral emotions are the brain’s call to action. If climate change were caused by the practice of eating kittens, millions of protesters would be massing in the streets.” – Daniel Gilbert, Harvard Psychologist (3).
    This is an interesting approach to the argument, but I feel as though it may have some credibility. I believe that we as a society need to accept our current problems, and take action. By choosing to start improving the environment, new innovations, new jobs, and new opportunities for entrepreneurs will be created. As a result, the economy will be boosted by higher employment, more government investment, and an increased confidence in small business practices. Going “green” is expensive, but we need to except that this expense may actually be beneficial to our economy and to the world in general.
    1. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/science/earth/10climate.html
    2. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/12/05/world/climate-graphic-background.html#tab=2
    3. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/business/economy/21view.html

  9. Today, there is one topic can be agreed upon: something needs to be done about our ever-increasing unemployment rate. Of course, this means that new jobs must be created. Another thing that most of society agrees upon is that either we must protect our environment or stimulate the economy and create those much-needed jobs. However, it is possible to do both. If we focus on creating new “green” jobs, we can stimulate the economy, help our unemployment problem and protect our environment. Climate change is at the center of the need for change in terms of environmental protection. “Left unchecked, the economic disruption caused by climate change will sap our resources and dampen our growth. But with low-carbon technologies and clean, renewable energy, we can capture a new global market, drive American economic growth, and create green jobs for American workers, offering new skills and new earnings opportunities up and down the economic ladder.”(1) The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given $7.22 billion to achieve their goal of “protecting and promoting ‘green’ jobs and a healthier environment” (2). Also, at the beginning of this year, President Obama announced that $2.3 billion in tax credits would be used for the creation of 17,000 green technology jobs and $5 billion would be used for clean energy manufacturing, which would require the creation of other jobs (3). One study shows that if 25% of all American energy were produced from renewable sources by 2025, we would generate at least 5 million new green jobs (5). Also, what is not often thought of is that these new jobs will not only be for young people who are fresh out of college and set on changing the world. According to Rona Fried, founder of GreenDreamJobs.com, many green companies are looking to fill positions with older individuals with decades of experience (4). What is also often left unconsidered is that the focus on having a greener economy has made some people begin new businesses on their own. One individual, Mark Davis, was encouraged to start his own solar instillation company (4). Overall, when both economy and environmental protection are considered, there are many new opportunities for change and growth. We must think about long-term effects: the development of new energy sources not only offers jobs, but eventually prices will decrease and become more stable because these resources are “homegrown” (1). It is also important to remember that many of the steps that can be taken to create a greener economy also mean new career opportunities for numerous Americans.

    Sources:
    (1) http://alternativeenergy.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001336
    (2) http://www.epa.gov/recovery/map.html
    (3) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/09/opinion/09sat2.html?scp=10&sq=green+jobs&st=nyt
    (4) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/business/04JOBS.html?pagewanted=2&sq=green jobs&st=nyt&scp=1
    (5) http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1809506,00.html

  10. I agree with what Brittany, Christina, and others have said: The environment and the economy are interconnected and we must have balance.

    If we destroy the environment, we will not have any resources to support industry, we could destroy our quality of life, and ultimately destroy our species (the extinction of many species currently inhabiting Earth, including ours, is likely if we continue to pollute the environment, deplete limited resources, and possibly cause climate change; however many, many other species would endure [think bugs and deep-sea fishes] and the Earth itself would move on without us).

    On the other hand, if we destroy our economy (highly unlikely as that is), it will destroy our country. As much as our country was founded on and based in the ideals of Democracy, it was equally founded on and is rooted in the ideals of free trade and Capitalism; Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762) (1) and Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) (2) were not written too far apart and both had their effect on the U.S. Constitution of 1787 (3; 4) and the foundations laid afterwards (5). It is hard to say exactly what would happen if our economy failed catastrophically (worse than in the 1930s), but loss of trust in the government—possibly even a call for re-organization of the government (i.e. adopt a new constitution, as has happened in France repeatedly over the past two-hundred and fifty years, largely due to various economic issues)—a breakdown of infrastructure and decline in the standard of living would be the most likely effects. In any case, I doubt we would still be concerned about protecting and preserving the environment; all of our attention would be focused on regaining stability and I feel many people would be inclined to give up on environmental ideals in favor of economic recovery—just as is the case right now, only to a greater degree (6).

    What we should be doing now is continue to push for environmental protection and conservation. While we are still on shaky economic ground, most of our attention will be focused on recovery, but keeping environmental issues on the agenda as opposed to allowing them to be pushed aside in Congress and other branches of our government, as is the case now (7), will help/force our law makers to find better compromise between the economy and our environment.

    1. http://www.constitution.org/jjr/socon.htm
    2. http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html
    3. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html
    4. http://www.angelfire.com/mo2/useless/constitution.html
    5. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/wm/59.4/fleischacker.html
    6. http://www.gallup.com/poll/126788/Americans-Firm-Prioritizing-Economy-Environment.aspx
    7. http://www.examiner.com/x-2903-Energy-Examiner~y2009m9d23-Economic-growth-trumps-environmental-concerns

  11. Evidence may show that it is difficult to be both beneficial to the environment and still have a flourishing, powerful economy. Such allegations may be backed with examples such as China and the United States – the two most powerful economies, and the two largest producers of CO2¬. However, to look at these economic powerhouses is to ignore all other countries. States can be analyzed based upon GDP as well as Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The EPI is an index produced by Yale University that factors major variables to the environment that a state produces, such as emissions per capita and water quality, and then scores and ranks the nations accordingly (1). According to a 2009 GDP comparison, six of the top 13 states have EPI ranking above 70, putting them in the top 25 for their environments. Clearly it wasn’t necessary to sacrifice economic growth for the environment; countries such as Japan and Germany, two of the most powerful economies today, rank high on the EPI. Two of the most environmentally friendly states, Sweden and Switzerland, have notably strong economies as well, with GDP’s ranking 35 and 38 in the world, respectively. Therefore while it is possible to say “screw the environment,” and focus entirely on wealth accumulation, it is entirely unnecessary.

    However, when a state can first establish precedence over which path to pursue, the choice should be obvious. Prioritize the environment, and your people will be healthy to work longer, live longer, and contribute to the economy longer. Focus on the economy with utter disregard to the environment, and citizens will suffer. A Cornell study in 2007 has revealed that “pollution is the source of 40% of deaths worldwide” (3). Pollution is directly linked to the malnourishment and susceptibility to disease of 3.7 billion people. Let’s disregard the fact that humans are but one of possible trillions of species; we’re already killing off a majority of our own race by our own byproducts. States should alter their course radically, and immediately. The strength of your economy should not matter; after all, when there is no habitable location on Earth, what does economics matter?

    [1] http://epi.yale.edu/Countries
    [2] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2001rank.html
    [3] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070813162438.htm

  12. Many Americans want to place the importance of economy over the environment because they The United States is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases only behind China, which means that we need to clean up our own mess. While the environment and the economy are two separate issues, I do believe that the environment and economic growth can be compatible goals. According to several Democrats, “Our lack of a comprehensive clean energy policy hurts job creation and increases regulatory uncertainty throughout our economy…We need to take action in order to lead the emerging sectors that will drive our economic recovery.” (1) Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman will present a draft proposal on a comprehensive climate and energy bill. The draft has an overall goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gases by 2020 in the range of 17 percent below the 2005 levels. Under cap and trade, companies would face limits on the amount of carbon pollution set by Washington and those limits would become stricter over the next forty years. The bill also would include a carbon tax on transportation fuels and the revenues will go towards transportation projects, reducing fuel consumption and lowering domestic reliance on foreign oil. (2) This means that gas prices would increase somewhat but the money go to helping create new green technologies and new green jobs. In the last month, the U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent (3). With the unemployment rate this high new jobs need to be created and with this bill we will do that and help the environment. The new green jobs and industries that would be created by the tax on transportation fuels and carbon would help boost our GDP. According to a study done by research teams at the University of California Berkeley, Yale and Illinois the climate bill would boost the United States GDP by over one hundred billion dollars and would create between 918,000 and 1.9 million jobs in the United States (4). By passing this bill, we will not only help our economy now with new green jobs, green industries and an increase in GDP but we will also help to better our environment in the long run.
    1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2010/03/the_passage_of_president_obama.html
    2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/03/17/AR2010031704403.html
    3. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124350660
    4. http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2253246/obama-green-policies-boost

  13. The goals of environmental and economic objectives are often considered to be mutually exclusive of each other, however, I think that not only is this perception wrong, but the two can actually complement each other. According to one study done in Europe, researchers found that “environmental policy [actually] contributes to a structural shift in employment towards jobs associated with cleaner, more efficient products and processes.” They conclude that “the eco-industry itself is an important source of new jobs.” (1) I think a crucial aspect that is often overlooked when considering the two fields is how they both affect each other in terms of employment. As seen from the study above, not only does the eco-industry create new jobs within an economy, but stronger/richer economies are also better able to promote this industry. As an economy rises, it is able to put more money and research into environmentally friendly advancements. One study by the Vienna University of Economics found that “after the turning point environmental quality improves as income keeps rising. Possible explanations for this pattern are seen in the progression of economic development, from clean agrarian economies to polluting industrial economies to clean service economies. This trend is enhanced through the transfer of cleaner technology from high-income countries to low-income countries and the tendency of people with higher income having a higher preference for environmental quality.” (2) There then seems to exist a direct correlation (if not causation) between a better environment and a stronger economy. I think that as the US economy seeks to re-emerge from this recession, we should focus on environmentally friendly advancements that will not only help protect the environment as we progress, but provide jobs for an economy in desperate need of them. This is essentially Obama’s plan, as he said about his stimulus package: “Throughout our history, there’s been a tension between those who’ve sought to conserve our natural resources for the benefit of future generations, and those who have sought to profit from these resources, but I’m here to tell you this is a false choice. With smart, sustainable policies, we can grow our economy today and preserve the environment for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.” (3)
    1) http://ec.europa.eu/environment/enveco/pdf/facts.pdf
    2) http://www.wu.ac.at/inst/vw1/gee/papers/gee!wp06.pdf
    3) http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/03/03/03greenwire-we-can-grow-our-economy-and-preserve-the-enviro-9972.html

  14. As I stated above in a reply to a comment, direct action from firms to preserve the environment will only occur if the cost incurred by firms are lower than the benefits that come with such action. In our current economic state, where there is a high unemployment rate, suggesting that firms have been forced to cut back on resources, it would seem unlikely that they would invest their money into new technologies. Many firms would be unwilling to take such risks. Not only does the economy influence firms’ attitude on environmental preservation, but it also influences the consumers’ attitude. During an economic crisis, consumers are more likely to save and less likely to spend on non-necessities. The tendencies of consumers to save during an economic crisis poses some very difficult questions and further shows that economic growth and environmental preservation do not come hand in hand, especially during economic crisis. For example, it is hard to get consumers to consider other modes of transportation and provide a disincentive for the use of gasoline, yet at the same time stimulate the economy by getting people to purchase a new car (1). True, firms have begun their construction of hybrids as a “environmentally-friendly” option, but it still requires oil and further gives incentive for people to use their cars more. Thus, in the long run, the two will balance out and we will still be left with the environmental preservation problem in addition to the gradual decline in this most valued resource.
    Thus environmental preservation often takes a backseat when a country’s economic growth or lack thereof comes into the picture. Like the environmental economics theory that states that as real GDP per person rises and reaches a point where there is some greater level of wealth, then environmental quality improves, our current economic states mirrors this. During an economic crisis, we have reached a point where GDP has dropped to the point where environmental quality is not the main topic. Consumers and producers will act in their self-interest such that the environmental quality is often abandoned. It is only when we are able to regain economic progress that we can start to focus more of our attention on our environmental woes.

    1)http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2009/03/30/090330taco_talk_owen
    2)http://www.jstor.org/stable/4226513?seq=3

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