January 08, 2008

Liu, Diamond, China and green GDP

Jianguo Liu and Jared Diamond do not divorce (academically speaking) - together they keep saying funny things about China and the world at large, this time in Science magazine.
As do many other countries, China overstates its GDP, because it fails to subtract economic and other costs of environmental degradation. In fact, the environment is often put on the wrong side of the balance sheet when calculating GDP; polluting the environment and cleaning up the mess are both considered to be contributing to GDP, rather than subtracting from it.
Liu and Diamond fall short. It is quite nasty having to wake up at 6:30 am, drive to the office and spend eight hours working there. Commuting between home and work, working, and then entertaining oneself to compensate for the suffering all contribute to GDP, rather than subtract from it. Properly calculated according to Liu and Diamond's reasoning GDP would probably be zero.
Developing more environmentally friendly technologies for domestic use and export would increase employment and economic efficiency while reducing environmental damage.
Doubtful. In any case I insist that employment, like pollution, is a nasty thing.
Many people still hope that the path followed by developed countries (pollute first, control later) will work for China, but [...] natural resources are more limited today.
To support the latter statement they cite the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. If I remember well the MEA says nothing of the sort. If it did, it would be wrong.
Furthermore, environmental impacts on human health and socioeconomic well-being will be much greater, as China's population is now much larger than the populations of developed countries when they suffered severe air and water pollution.
So will be the positive impacts of development.

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