NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Rich U.S. Has Cleaner Air

February 26, 2002

Environmental alarmists fail to appreciate a fundamental truth: richer nations, including the U.S., have the resources to avoid or clean up environmental pollution. Poorer nations such as China or Ghana, which must devote a much larger portion of their resources just to subsistence, don't have that luxury.

Imposing expensive environmental mandates like the Kyoto treaty on American industries will only make us poorer -- and reduce our ability to control pollution.

For example, compare the economic positions of the U.S. and China and their environmental records:

  • The U.S. has an $8.9 trillion economy with a population of roughly 285 million.
  • China has a $1 trillion economy spread over about 4.5 times as many people.
  • In the U.S., air particulates declined 65 percent from 1970 to 1998; toxic releases fell by nearly half between 1988 and 1998; and since 1980, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead have all decreased.
  • While the U.S. economy in 1999 was more than 30 percent larger than in was in 1991, carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of gross domestic product were about 85 percent of their 1991 level.

China, however, is a relative wasteland of pollution.

  • Images from space taken by NASA a little more than two years ago show the eastern part of the country cloaked in a brown smog.
  • Beijing -- where coughing is routine -- had "completely disappeared under the haze."
  • A little more than a year ago, CBS News World WeatherWatch reported that "China produces twice the carbon dioxide as America does."

Source: Editorial, "Greener Policies," Investor's Business Daily, February 25, 2002.


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