Did Frederick Brodie Discover the World's First Environmental Kuznets Curve?

Karen Clay and Werner Troesken

in The Economics of Climate Change

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780226479880
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226479903 | DOI:
Did Frederick Brodie Discover the World's First Environmental Kuznets Curve?

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This chapter examines the incidence of coal smoke in fogs in and around London and the pattern of such fogs over time. Brodie attributed these fogs to intense coal smoke emissions between 1871 and 1903. Brodie's limited data and additional information on coal consumption per capita, gas and electricity use, abatement legislation, and mortality from respiratory diseases is reconsidered. A reverse event study, using spikes in mortality to predict severe fogs and then compare those predictions against other evidence regarding their occurrence is constructed. Between 1855 and 1910, there were recurring fogs, but none after 1900. The smoke density in London fell for a variety of reasons: the city's population became more dispersed; the inhabitants became richer; and associated regulations, such as the 1891, Public Health Act instituted fines for dense smoke emissions, promoting a shift to the use of gas and hard coal that burned more cleanly. The chapter concludes that Brodie was correct in his assessment of the source of London's killer fogs and that the city had to reach a threshold level of income and technological advancement before it could address the problem of coal smoke.

Keywords: coal smoke; fogs; London; Frederick Brodie; coal smoke emissions; mortality; Public Health Act

Chapter.  11661 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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