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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute

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Discussion: (19 comments)

  1. Seattle Sam

    Meanwhile the President has assured us that he has assembled all the scientific evidence (perhaps including all of Al Gore’s computer models that predicted higher temperatures by now?) and extrapolated a disaster if we don’t ACT NOW. Déjà vu all over again.

    1. morganovich

      innovation and prosperity?

      we can fix that.

      yes we can.

      1. Methinks

        LOL!

  2. Sure, the predictions of Limits to Growth were broadly incorrect. However, I take issue with Dr. Perry’s statement that “reality is entirely the reverse”. Have him spend a week in Beijing and see if he qualifies his statement about not choking on pollution.

    Further, just because those model predictions were wrong does not mean that they didn’t teach us something valuable about how all those factors (population, consumption, pollution, natural resources) are interconnected – even if not in exactly the ways they were represented in their models. In fact, economic models, in particular, could learn something from the Limits to Growth models: that assumptions of aggregate equilibrium hide some very important elements – namely adaptation.

    So please, Dr. Perry, don’t be so quick to be yet another condemner of Limits to Growth before qualifying your own comments.

    1. Sure, the predictions of Limits to Growth were broadly incorrect. However, I take issue with Dr. Perry’s statement that “reality is entirely the reverse”. Have him spend a week in Beijing and see if he qualifies his statement about not choking on pollution.

      First of all, the statement that “reality is entirely the opposite” is by Bjorn Lomborg, not by Dr. Perry; but what is there that you object to in his pointing out the fact that the dramatically increased air pollution predicted in “Limits to Growth” not only didn’t occur, but in fact dramatically decreased?

      There is no claim that pollution has disappeared entirely.

      1. You are correct, the except is from Bjorn Lomburg, my mistake. And apologies to Dr. Perry is I misrepresented his stance with regard to the excerpt.

        My point is that aggregate statistics are quoted. What they hide is that changes, such as decreases in air pollution, have not occurred everywhere on the planet. In fact, there are many places on the globe that have seen increased pollution. The same goes for the statistics concerning decreased malnourishment – sure, on aggregate things are improving, but in some of the poorest places on Earth are getting more so, and climate change and economic globalization are exacerbating the trend.

        My point is, one of the main failings of the LTG models was to make broad conclusions based on such aggregated analyses, and this failing should be kept in mind when one reads arguments- such as the one being made by Bjorn Lomborg – that advocate for more growth based their own aggregate, broad-brush statements. Further, it is even worse when such an obvious strawman is made of LTG just to advance the opposite viewpoint.

        1. I’m sure you are aware that pollution is only reduced when a country has enough wealth to deal with the problem. This has been true for every country. China is a long way from having sufficient wealth to start to deal with pollution.

          1. In general, yes, that has been observed. But again, this is only true in aggregate. In fact, there is a large body of empirical research that has tested and cast in doubt the Kunetz curve (pollution decreases with growing wealth). The places in China with the worst pollution are also those with the most wealth. The growing gap in the distribution of wealth, brought on by opening to the market economy, has lifted many from poverty, but it has also left many behind.

          2. In general, yes, that has been observed. But again, this is only true in aggregate. In fact, there is a large body of empirical research that has tested and cast in doubt the Kunetz curve (pollution decreases with growing wealth).

            Perhaps you could cite some of it for us.

            The places in China with the worst pollution are also those with the most wealth. The growing gap in the distribution of wealth, brought on by opening to the market economy, has lifted many from poverty, but it has also left many behind.”

            Assuming you are referring to Chinese people, are you saying that it would be better that everyone remain in dirt poor poverty rather than that some could raise their standard of living?

        2. Well, that’s just the trouble with models, isn’t it. all models are wrong, some are useful.

          I’m not sure what you see as a strawman. The Club of Rome predicted disasters for the human race in several forms, none of which have happened, and in fact pollution, malnutrition, lack of sanitation and clean water, and extreme poverty have all decreased since the dire predictions of imminent doom. They were just flat out wrong.

          You must have missed the fact that globalization is pulling more people in more parts of the world out of extreme poverty than anything else has ever done.

          1. Ron,

            One thing I am concerned about are water shortages. It’s a big issue in the West and Southwest. When I lived in San Antonio, we were constantly worrying about the water level in the Edwards aquifer. In fact, the expensive and grossout trend towards drinking toilet water is growing throughout the region. Worst of all, the CBO estimated the Rubio-Schumer amnesty will add 46 million new immigrants by 2033 if it succeeds. Where is the water going to come from?

          2. morganovich

            paul-

            much of the water issue is driven by bad government policy, not an actual shortage.

            if farmers that insisted on growing cotton in california deserts were not given access to deeply subsidized water and absurd “water rights” that are nothing of the sort but actually water grants and subsidy, then use would get a lot more efficient.

            its a broken system because those who use it do not bear the true costs of doing so.

            behind pretty much every water shortage in the US is a set of awful farm policy.

          3. Morganovich,

            I’m sure stupid and corrupt government policy is at least partial explanation depending on the area, but I’m not sure it’s the whole answer. I know Las Vegas, for example, is undergoing a water crisis and I don’t think Nevada is a particularly large ag state(though I could be wrong about that.) I think it’s mostly a matter of geography and population density.

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          5. Paul

            Drinking recycled water sounds icky, but if you think about it, all the water we ever drink has been around since day 1, and has been recycled by nature for several billion years. It might be best not to think about where those particular molecules were last used by a living organism.

            When I lived in San Antonio, we were constantly worrying about the water level in the Edwards aquifer.

            Well yes, the water company keeps telling you to worry so you won’t fight rate increases. When necessary, water will have to be piped in from other locations where it exists in abundance. Maybe at a higher cost.

            Many parts of the west don’t have sufficient local gasoline supplies either. Pipelines supply it to Las Vegas and Phoenix, and pipelines supply water to those locations as well. Higher demand for water, or gasoline, or bananas in those locations where they don’t occur naturally, will result in higher prices, which will magically cause supplies to increase.

            I have been hearing about a water crisis in Las Vegas since the 1960s, and no one there has gone without water yet. When a glass of water there costs me as much as a glass of beer I’ll start taking that claim more seriously.

            The natural water cycle supplies water in greater amounts than people can ever use. Most of it flows directly back into the ocean. Just like so many other things we consume, water must sometimes be moved from where it is to where we want more of it.

            Markets will supply us with water just like they supply us with everything else.

  3. Tom Sullivan

    LTG was a deliberate deception operation. It deserves condemnation, not respect.

    1. And your evidence for it being a “deliberate deception operation” is … what?

      The fact that is started the discussion about long-term development trajectories – and did so with a formalized model that could be seen and critiqued – seems like a positive to me, rather than some conspiracy.

  4. For a solid argument disputing Bjorn Lomborg’s erroneous reasoning, see the new book, Supply Shock (Brian Czech) and http://www.steadystate.org.

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    casino

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