What is the most desirable level of pollution?
The American economist Simon Kuznets thought that the economic growth contributed to increase social inequalities and ecological damages at first, but that then it created the conditions of a continuous social and environmental progress. An optimism contradicted by the facts for twenty years. Already, in 1972, in a report being entitled The Limitsto Growth, the Club of Rome questioned, for the first time, the virtues of the growth. This study carried out by researchers Massachusetts Institute of Technology underlines the ecological dangers of the economic and demographic growth which knows then the world and predicts a shortage of energy resources and consequences of the industrial development on the environment. This conflicting relationbetween economic growth and state of the environment thus results from the awareness of the destruction and the overexploitation of the renewable resources by the economic activity of the man, their exhaustion in the second case and a considerable production of waste. So, from the 1920s, Pigou, of the school of Cambridge, opens the way of the analysis of the problems of pollution and in the 1960sappears the economy of the environment which appears as an original disciplinary field: the economists are going to try to bring normative answers to the problems of the management of the environment. At the same time, numerous world summits, conference and treaties bent over this question of the environment such as the Kyoto protocol in 1997 or the world summit of Johannesburg in 2002 on thesustainable development. However, the economic argument is often advanced to delay or to question the opportunity of the programs of reduction of the pollution. So, the absence of American representatives in Johannesburg or still their refusal of the Kyoto protocol indicates above all the fear for the United States to lose, through ecological measures, their economic superpower. Therefore, economicgrowth and environment they live definitively two conflicting and thus incompatible concepts? Is it necessary to condemn the growth in the name of the conservation environmental as expresses it the Club of Rome, does the environment establish a real brake in the economic growth as think of it the Americans or we can try to reconcile effectively these two concepts of an economic point of view?
Toanswer these various questions, we shall study first of all in a first part the sources of the debate: a threatening economic growth for the environment and an ecological preoccupation punishing the competitiveness of companies and thus the growth itself. During a second part, we shall speak about new models of endogenous growth, not treating any more environmental issues as costs but as enginesof growth of tomorrow.
I) Economic growth and environmental protection: two apparently incompatible concepts because of their negative bilateral relation
A) The environmental consequences of the current level of production in the world and an awareness of a finitude of natural resources
From the 1960s, Bertrand de Jouvenel emphasizes the necessary conciliation between the progress ofthe production and the responsibility in front of the exploitation of natural resources, because “our takings cannot grow in the infinity”. He recommends other modes of consumption and thrifty management. Indeed, a big part of the environmental damages as the greenhouse effect, but also the overexploitation of non renewable natural resources (oil, coal) or renewable are due to the behavior ofconsumption and production of industrial nations. So, the economic growth can be described as a process of progressive accumulation of wealth entailing a progressive accumulation of dangerous substances for the conservation of the natural state of the planet and the human health. The economic growth accelerates then the depletion of not renewable resources. While industrial nations count less than 30...
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