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Did Frederick Brodie Discover the World's First Environmental Kuznets Curve? Coal Smoke and the Rise and Fall of the London Fog

In: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present

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  • Karen Clay
  • Werner Troesken

Abstract

In a paper presented to the Royal Meteorological Society, Brodie (1905) presented a data series that presaged the modern Environmental Kuznets Curve: in the decades leading up to 1890, the number of foggy days in London rose steadily, but after 1891, the fogs began to subside. Brodie attributed the rise and fall of the London fog to variation in emissions of coal smoke, arguing that before 1890 Londoners burned excessive amounts of soft coal, while in the years following, a series of legal, demographic, and technological changes mitigated the production of coal smoke. This paper asks two questions. First, are Brodie’s underlying data trustworthy? Do other, independent sources of evidence same patterns Brodie identified? Was London’s atmosphere becoming more polluted and foggy for most of the nineteenth century, only to improve around 1890? Second, if so, is Brodie’s interpretation of the data correct? Can the changes in London’s atmosphere be attributed to changes in the production of coal smoke, or were they the result of some broader meteorological phenomenon. The evidence we present here is consistent Brodie’s data and interpretation.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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This chapter was published in:

  • Gary D. Libecap & Richard H. Steckel, 2011. "The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number libe10-1.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11990.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11990

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    1. Welsch, Heinz, 2004. "Corruption, growth, and the environment: a cross-country analysis," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(05), pages 663-693, October.
    2. Eli Berman & Linda T.M. Bui, 1998. "Environmental Regulation and Productivity: Evidence from Oil Refineries," Papers 0091, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
    3. De Bruyn, Sander M., 1997. "Explaining the environmental Kuznets curve: structural change and international agreements in reducing sulphur emissions," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(04), pages 485-503, November.
    4. List, John A. & Gallet, Craig A., 1999. "The environmental Kuznets curve: does one size fit all?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 409-423, December.
    5. Deacon, Robert & Norman, Catherine S, 2004. "Does the Environmental Kuznets Curve Describe How Individual Countries Behave?," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6gm8164w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
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    Cited by:
    1. Fouquet, Roger, 2012. "The demand for environmental quality in driving transitions to low-polluting energy sources," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 138-149.

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