I'll start with the second, which is usually argued along the lines of "The United States," (as of 1999 and rounding up) "with 5% of the world's population, produces 25%" -- according to my calculations, it's
actually closer to 22% -- "of the world's pollution." Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? We need to cut pollution by a factor of five! Well...
according to World Bank statistics,
the United States'
GDP was $8.7 trillion, out of a total
of $30 trillion, or about 29% of the world economy. So the US is actually polluting less than its share of the economy would make acceptable.
Now compare this to China, which, with 20% of the population, is only producing 3.5% of the world
economy. Taking CO2 emissions as representative, the US produces 1.6
times as much pollution as China does -- but China emits 926 million metric
tons of carbon dioxide to produce a single percentage of the gross world product, (producing
13.8% of the total world pollution in the process) whereas the US emits only
178 million metric tons: the United States is a little over five times
more efficient than China. (Pollution statics are of 1995, also from the
World Bank.) Is it any wonder the enviromentalists have been looking at
China closely? Consider if China's share of the world economy became proportional to its size (that is, about six times larger). A linear
projection shows world pollution doubling as a result. Now, I'm almost
certain a linear projection is wrong, but I'm not sure which way: the US
has half as much industry (proportional to the total economy) as China,
but but over twice the service sector, and a tenth of the agriculture.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any hard data on how to assign pollution to
sectors. If one assumes that industry is responsible for all of the
pollution, then a China with its proportional (by population) share of the
world economy will increase world pollution by 42%.
India, however, has 997 million people (16.6%), and produces about 1.5% of both
the gross Terran product and the gross Terran pollution. It's right on
its enviromental efficiency target; increasing to its proportional (by
population) share of the world economy would world pollution by 13%.).
Now it's time to pick on Denmark.
With 0.086% of the world population, Denmark produces 0.23% of the world
pollution and 0.603% of the world economy -- about 90.5 million metric
tons of carbon dioxide per percent of the terran domestic product, about twice as efficient as the US, with an almost
identical distribution of the agricultural, industry, and service sectors.
Sweden is even more efficient (pollution per percentile
product), but the World Bank does not have its sector distribution data.
with 2.1% of the world population producing 16% of the gross terran
product and 4.9% of the pollution, Japan produces 72 million metric tons
of CO2 per GDP percentile -- about 45% less than the US -- despite having
approximately 10% more of its economy in manufacturing.
So how does this relate to the California power crisis? Quite
simply, California has been more concerned with not building another
polluting power plant than with ensuring that it had adequate supplies of
electricity. Since I rather doubt that Japan's industrial process is
fully three times less polluting than the US's, I look to lifestyle
differnces to explain the gap. Japan is much more densely populated,
which decreases pollution from transportation; because of the crowding,
they tend to buy smaller things, which are less enviromentally demanding
(typically) to transport than larger things. I know less about Denmark,
but my impression is that most Americans would not be comfortable living
there, and have an emotional attachment to their low taxes. California's
economy is being hurt by its enviromentalism (and botched deregulation,
but that's another issue). Which leads me to wealth.
power is necessary for the health of a modern (technological,
service-dominated) economy. The US has the largest (and many would argue,
the strongest) economy in the world. This enables two things: first,
absolute military superiority. The US has used its big stick pretty
frequently recently, and that gives it a certain extra edge at the
negotiating table. What's more important, though, is the raw size of the
US economy; an individual country like Sweden couldn't hope to materially
affect it. Thus, the EU and the Euro; the Europeans are sick of American
influence and power -- American bullying, to be blunt. Historically, threatening
America with a trade war was unthinkable; with so little of America's economy
in the import/export sector, even if imports and exports were cut off completely, a trade war wouldn't irrevocably
damage the American economy, whereas for a country in Europe, which had
much larger import/export sectors, it would be 'life-threatening'
-- and the US would be likely to be far more able to close your borders
(by force or diplomacy) than you would close the American borders.
Interestingly enough, according to the 1995 World Bank statistics, the US
economy actually depended more on imports/exports (about 20%, total) then
Japan (about 18% total). (This, combined with Japan's economic
strength, is what allowed the situation with automobile trade fester
for so long.) It's still much less Denmark (about 60%, total, though I
have no data on how much of the EU's collective import/export activity
remains inside the EU), and China (45%).
Back to the point, though -- electrical power : wealth/economic power
: the community of nations. What does this say about the potential for
future global agreements on pollution? As you might expect, it depends
greatly on what the US (29%), Japan (16%), and Germany (7%) / the EU (
?? ) decide to do. If the US doesn't agree to enviromental accords, the
remaining coalition loses the biggest stick, and most of its chance at
affecting about a quarter of the world's pollution. In the future, much
of the effect of the coalition will depend on how well it can coerce
developing countries -- like China. If Japan and the EU form a strong
coalition, they could probably bully China as well as the US could -- but
In conclusion, I think the stategy that would work best is to get the United States into a coalition at almost any cost to enviromental progress. Right now, there's relatively little a country can do to reduce the pollution from power generation and industrial applications, so my suggestion would be to fund efforts in commercializing alternative power sources, especially selling it cheaply to developing nations, perhaps in exchange for becoming signatories to the enviromental body (or another, more stringent one, enabled by the new technology). Other important technological improvements include (especially for the US) hybrid-propulsion vehicles and more efficient air conditions/heaters/homes.
The 'right' solution, though, is not primarily technological; it will come from using new technologies to introduce behavioral change. (For instance, a breakthrough in excavation technology would make expanding the subway system much more likely; a breakthrough development in tracklaying might allow bullet trains to replace some of the long-haul trucking; and so on.) Incremental advances in technology have already produced pollution-lessening behavior, in the form of telecommuting. A breakthrough in tele-immersive meetings could lead to an explosion in telecommuting.
'Better, faster, cheaper' not only describes microprocessor evolution, but what enviromentally friendly technologies must be compared to the status-quo. It will not be easy, nor quick, but I think there is hope: with sufficient prodding from people and government, automakers are already improving their hybrids much faster than their gasoline-only cars; I hope for a day when the 100-mpg family sedan isn't advertised with low-emissions as a selling point, but increased convience (fewer fillups), economy (fewer fillups, less routine maintenance/wear & tear on the engine), and looks.
Thanks for reading all the way through. :)
Silver City Construction Company, Reality Maintenance Divison