April marks Earth Day and, for many of us, spring cleaning. The ideal is to combine these two concepts. We want to celebrate the Earth by leaving it cleaner for future generations.
The question is how to get there. Some people talk about big government solutions, such as Green New Deal with its regulations and taxes, or Paris Agreement, which simply gives China a political and public relations pass to keep saying one thing while doing another.
Let us come up with a more effective solution: promoting the economic freedom, growth and cleanliness that go with it.
Economic research by numerous organizations – including the Heritage Foundation, the Fraser Institute of Canada and Yale University – over the past decades proves that freer economies are cleaner economies. In large part, it is because a system rooted in economic freedom generates more wealth for individuals and societies, that they can invest in protecting the environment.
Like the authors of Yale’s most recent Environmental performance index Put the:
We find that economic liberalism is positively associated with environmental performance. While our results do not give countries carte blanche to pursue laissez-faire economic strategies without regard for the environment, they cast doubt on the implicit tension between economic development and environmental protection.
Prosperity keeps people away from pollution because it gives them the time and the power to demand a cleaner environment. We see this in the environmental Kuznets curve, which depicts an inverted U-shaped relationship between pollution and economic development.
Here’s how it works: Economic growth, in the beginning, leads to more pollution, as people and institutions prioritize jobs and income over the health of the environment. Over time, however, this wealth means that more resources are available for environmental protection. Citizens demand that their countries reduce pollution. An increase in wealth and prosperity allows people to place a higher priority on protecting the environment, and that means they can bear the costs associated with pollution control technologies.
As the Yale Environmental Performance Index shows, there is a strong correlation between gross domestic product per capita and a country’s environmental score. He find that “wealthy democracies generally rise to the top of our rankings.” The foundation of the trend towards greater wealth per capita, stronger democracies and reduced poverty is economic freedom.
Therefore, an economic system rooted in limited government and free enterprise should be central to a country’s environmental goals.
This is especially true when it comes to a long-term threat such as climate change. The world will not be able to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by giving up on things. There are just too many people on Earth who will want the lifestyle that most of us in the West already enjoy.
Instead of asking others to slow their economies down, the United States should extend economic freedom to give them an economic scale to help them spur clean growth. And the United States should export our clean energy technologies so that everyone can reduce emissions, just like us.
Consider: Environmental Protection Agency 2020 inventory on greenhouse gas emissions reported that in the United States, “since 2005, national greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 10% and emissions from the power sector have fallen by 27%, so that our economy has grown by 25% ”. This trend will only accelerate with the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and the growth of renewable wind and solar energy.
Economic freedom is the opportunity, not the threat.
In an article from last year, Professor Christian Bjørnskov from Aarhus University in Denmark find:
Available data from 155 countries observed over five-year periods between 1975 and 2015 indicate that economic freedom not only reduces overall CO2 emissions, but also displaces the highest point of the economy. [environmental Kuznets curve] To the left. As such, the evidence suggests that the transition to cleaner technology occurs at an earlier stage in economically free societies.
Free and competitive markets that are not hampered by strong government distortions will stimulate investment in cleaner, more efficient technologies and more resilient infrastructure. Such markets will lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improve humanity’s ability to adapt to a changing climate.
The right economic and political environment cultivates a system that rewards innovation, efficiency and stewardship. We can improve the future of the Earth by unleashing the power of economic freedom.
The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here should be interpreted as representing the views of the Heritage Foundation.
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