Environmentalists should be cheering as poor countries build up cities and industry.
That’s an intentionally provocative way of putting it. But it’s correct, nonetheless.
This may be counterintuitive, because most of us are used to thinking that consumption (of energy and resources) is bad for the environment, and people in poverty barely consume anything. Focus on consumption alone and poverty looks green.
But it’s an ugly shade of green. We can decarbonize as fast as possible and radically redistribute resources, but there’s also no moral way to ask poor people to wait until that happens. So when it comes to energy and resource use, yeah, environmentalists should swallow hard and cheer as poor countries build factories, power plants, and highways.