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Can We Grow the Economy and Save the Planet?

Topics: Current Events
Image Credit: Beth Scupham/Flickr

When politicians talk about the environment and the economy in the same sentence, it’s often in the context of rolling back regulations to allow businesses to grow. But recent data suggest that it is possible to grow the economy and protect the planet at the same time.

  1. Green jobs grow the economy.

Green jobs are growing, both in the U.S. and across the world. Jobs in renewable energy are already providing a tremendous amount of opportunities for workers, and the stage is set for future growth.

According to the latest Renewable Energy and Jobs Report, roughly 7.7 million people around the world worked in renewable energy in 2014. This is up 18 percent from the previous year. Hydropower employment provided about 1.5 million jobs, and the solar PV industry employed about 2.5 million people. The liquid biofuels industry came through with 1.8 million jobs around the world. Jobs concerned with wind power edged over the 1 million mark for the first time. (No surprise there, as The Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that wind turbine repair technician will be one of the fastest-growing occupations between 2014 and 2024.)

It’s a real win-win for workers and for the environment. An increasingly clean-energy economy can provide jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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  1. “Decoupling” works — both economically and environmentally.

The Brookings Institution recently compared GDP growth between 2000 and 2014 with energy-related carbon emissions. Brookings reviewed data from all 50 states and Washington DC. They found that 30 states have eliminated the link between the two — something experts call “decoupling.”

The impact on the economy was not what you might expect.

“In recent years, at least 35 countries, including the United States, have increased their real gross domestic product (GDP) while reducing their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,” write the report authors. “This success is an encouraging juncture in the campaign to limit global warming, and would seem to license cautious optimism. …Overall, [the data] show that more than 30 states have delinked their growth and carbon emissions, confirming that economic growth does not inevitably require emissions growth.”

Check out the full report, Growth, carbon, and Trump: State progress and drift on economic growth and emissions ‘decoupling’ for more information about these findings. They demonstrate that on both a state and a national level, economic growth is possible without sacrificing the environment in the process.

  1. Many countries are growing their economies while reducing emissions.

According to an analysis by the World Resources Institute, which was recently presented by Business Insider, 35 countries (including the U.S.) reduced emissions and grew their economies between 2000 and 2014. The U.K. reduced emissions and grew their economy by 27 percent during that time. Singapore reduced emissions by 46 percent, while doubling its GDP. Here in the U.S., we cut emissions by 10 percent and the GDP expanded by 30 percent.

Some might argue that economic growth would have been even more significant if emissions weren’t regulated as much as they were. But, evidence collected over the last couple of decades shows that even when emissions level off, the economy continues to grow. In other words, economic growth isn’t stunted by emissions reduction or regulations.

Tell Us What You Think

How else can responsible environmentalism and economic growth coexist? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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