NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Priorities Clash With Growth Objec

August 26, 2002

At big international conferences, such as the United Nations meeting opening today in Johannesburg, debate often centers on the clash between environmental "sustainability" and economic growth. Wealthy nations usually back environmental concerns, while developing countries argue for growth.

Environmentalists raise the prospect of humanity defiling the earth -- with natural resources running out, air and water becoming more polluted and species disappearing. But many experts dispute this view.

  • They point out that energy and other natural resources have become more abundant, not less.
  • More food is now produced per capita than at any time in the world's history.
  • Only about 0.7 percent of species are expected to disappear in the next 50 years -- not the 20 percent to 50 percent predicted by some environmentalists.
  • Most forms of environmental pollution look as though they have either been exaggerated or are transient -- associated with the early phases of industrialization.

Critics say that at such conferences there is excessive focus on global warming. All current models show that the Kyoto Protocol will only postpone for six years the temperature warming expected by global warming proponents -- and that at a cost of $150 billion to $350 billion annually. That cost for just one year could provide clean drinking water to every person in the world -- saving two million lives per year and saving 500 million from severe diseases.

Many experts urge the U.S. representatives to take up the case for development in Johannesburg.

Source: Bjorn Lomborg (Environmental Assessment Institute, Denmark), "The Environmentalists Are Wrong," New York Times, August 26, 2002.


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