Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1995

Publication Citation

3 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 5 (1995)


The dominant position of economists on trade and environment is that

increasing trade raises living standards, which provide the economic

basis for reduced pollution. Professors Chapman, Agras, and Suri

present a perspective that raises very different points. First, the dramatic

growth of manufacturing in East Asia for global markets is

based entirely (or nearly so) on the importation of processed

pollution-intensive raw materials. For a typical product in this global

system, a U.S. consumer purchasing an Asian product made from

imported resources benefits from a lower price and a cleaner local

environment; however, energy use and pollution associated with the

fabrication of the product occur in the country of origin of the raw

materials, and in the country where the final product is manufactured

Second, a modest logical exercise in economic theory shows that

the presence of trade between two regions with strongly different

pollution control practices can increase world total pollution.

Turning again to empirical data, the decline in energy per real dollar

of GNP in the OECD countries has been exactly offset by an increase

in energy intensity elsewhere. As a result, world energy intensity

(energy use per real dollar of GNP) has stayed almost constant, and

world energy use has been accelerating. Gross World Economic

Product per capita has not risen above its value of 14 years ago.

Actual data on global emissions are limited However, estimates

of three major world air pollutants show each with accelerating

growth. It is likely that actual data, if available, would show

exponential growth now for nuclear waste accumulation, sewage,

toxic metals and chemicals exposure, and other types of pollutants.

The empirical perspective we see is very different from the

commonly held viewpoint. In summary, on a global basis, the

international economy is characterized by increasing trade and world

economic product, stagnation in gross economic product per capita,

accelerating energy use, and exponential growth in emissions of

major pollutants.