The Jonah-Klein Smackdown

by Steven F. Hayward

One odd aspect of that old “5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the world’s X” is that no one seems to remember how that cliche ran when I was in college in the 1970s.   Back then, the cliche’s numbers were different.   In those days the formula reliably went, “The United States has 5% of the world’s population but uses 40% [or generates 40%] of the world’s resources [or pollution].”  The decline from 40% to 25% in a generation suggests a dynamic world where either the U.S. uses less stuff or pollutes less, and/or that the rest of the world has been growing faster than the U.S.–both good things.  If this trend continues (as, oddly enough, the IPCC assumes in its long-run climate change emissions forecasts), by the year 2100, the ratio will be even, i.e., US 5% population, 5% of resources used or pollution generated.  What cliche will Klein & Company use then?

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