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Environmental Implications of Economic Growth in the United States, 1970 to 2000: An Input - Output Analysis

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Some results on the environmental implications of economic growth in the United States from 1970 to 2000, obtained using conventional input-output analysis, are presented. The input-output model, as constructed, allows various projections, each associated with specific policy assumptions, to be pursued. Chosen here were two population assumptions (U.S. Census Series B, and Census Series E) coupled with two economic growth assumptions both pegged to labor productivity of different levels. This yielded four basic scenarios: high population and high economic growth, low population and low growth, and two intermediary cases. The environmental implications were entered in the form of two policy assumptions-continuation of the 1970 environmental policy and strict enforcement of all current environmental legislation. Several conclusions may be drawn from this analysis: if waste treatment is not intensified, even the low-population low-growth rate scenario yields significant increases in current pollution levels by the year 2000; increases in population level bears less influence upon environmental quality than the increases in the standard of living; capital investments in state-of-the-art production technologies are necessary if waste treatment costs are to be held to a low level; the treatment cost/GNP ratio will increase by a factor of 2.1 to 3.7 in the next decade, dependent upon abatement policy pursued, and increase by a factor of 2.8 to 4.8 in the next 30 years; and the economy can absorb this increase in treatment costs without major social cost, particularly with early capital investment by industry in production technology.

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Systems, Man and Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:SMC-3 ,  Issue: 6 )