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.