mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Good Green News
The Great Global Decoupling Has Already Begun

The growth of the global economy is starting to outpace the growth of carbon emissions, and that “decoupling” has some massive—and exciting—implications for humanity’s continued ability to thrive, sustainably. The New York Times reports:

Last year, for the first time in the 40 years since both metrics have been recorded, global G.D.P. grew but global carbon emissions leveled off. Economists got excited, but they also acknowledged that it could have been an anomalous blip.

But a study released by the International Energy Agency last month found that the trend continued in 2015. In another study published on Tuesday, Nathaniel Aden, a research fellow at the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank, found that since the start of the 21st century, 21 countries, including the United States, have already fully decoupled their economic growth from carbon emissions. In those countries, while G.D.P. went up over the past 15 years, carbon pollution went down.

“It’s really exciting, and it suggests that countries can sever the historic link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Aden said.

Most green policies quickly fall flat thanks in large part to one of the central tenants of modern environmental thinking: that economic development and environmental stewardship are mutually exclusive. The modern green spends a great deal of time cursing the world for having the audacity to choose growth over Gaia, and then wonders why no one pays any attention to half baked solutions to the supposedly apocalyptic problems now facing humanity. But eco-fecklessness isn’t hard to understand: donning the hair shirt in service of some far off goal is neither a popular nor a politically expedient strategy.

This is why decoupling is so important: it allows us to have our cake and eat it, too. We’ve long maintained that environmentally friendly policies don’t necessarily preclude economic growth, and in fact that’s something the United States has already proven in recent years (thanks in no small part to the shale boom). This divergence between growth and emissions is only going to accelerate as the world continues to move towards a less energy intensive, more efficient economy based on the manipulation of information rather than the production of, well, stuff.

So here’s yet another reminder (if you needed one): don’t listen to the Malthusian Chicken Littles of the world. We face some difficult challenges this century with climate change near the top of the list, but the sky isn’t falling—we can grow, green.

Features Icon
show comments
  • dawnsblood

    Except that ‘decoupling’ probably means higher energy prices. This means the rich indulge all they want while the poor get shafted. Kinda the norm to be honest though. Energy is becoming another ‘sin’ tax.

    • Blackbeard

      Exactly. Furthermore, draconian and unnecessary environment regulations, of which CO2 restrictions are only one part, are an important reason for stagnant economic growth worldwide.

    • Wyrdless

      Except that energy prices are extremely low right now…

      • dawnsblood

        Which (I am sure) is a permanent condition right? No, they will use that excuse true but when prices climb (as they will eventually do), the poor will suffer even more than they do now. Besides everyone tells me about this ‘living wage’ problem the poor have. Doesn’t that mean the poor cannot afford to pay prices as they stand at the moment? The poor never enjoy these ‘sin’ taxes but the do-gooders love to impose them.

        • Wyrdless

          Over the long-term there is no reason to assume energy prices are going back up to where they were a decade ago any time soon.

          Fracking as a technique has already broken the back of OPEC and it can be used anywhere and when that technology spreads it will keep oil prices very low.

          This energy revolution has only just begun. Combine that with how vastly more efficient equipment is today vs say the 80s , and you get long term low cost energy

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “Global Warming” is BS, the hypothesis that the increase in Carbon Dioxide will cause an increase in temperature has been disproven by 19 years without an increase in temperature. And if the environmentalists have been wrong about that, why should their word be taken for the disastrous effects a warmer world would bring? The historical evidence of the medieval warm period, when the world was warmer than today, as Greenland was colonized during this period and grapes and wine were made in Moscow, proves that a warmer world is a good thing, and Carbon Dioxide wasn’t responsible.

  • Andrew Allison is no less fanciful than the now thoroughly-discredited AGW models. But fear not, we can rely on NOAA to keep fudging the data to achieve the desired results. Speaking of NOAA’s forecasting ability, the famed “Godzilla” El Nino has delivered below average rainfall thus far (

  • Kevin

    How much of this is riven by dubious Chinese (and others’) statistics?

    • Jim__L

      China, Volkswagen (et al)…

    • Andrew Allison

      None of it.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service