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The Economics of Climate ChangeAdaptations Past and Present$
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Gary D. Libecap and Richard H. Steckel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226479880

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226479903.001.0001

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

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

Coal Smoke and the Rise and Fall of the London Fog

Chapter:
(p.281) 10 Did Frederick Brodie Discover the World's First Environmental Kuznets Curve?
Source:
The Economics of Climate Change
Author(s):

Karen Clay

Werner Troesken

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226479903.003.0011

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

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