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Just as nations have different levels of population, industrial and agricultural production, income and education, so they have varied environmental impacts. Such impacts aren’t stable over time: Countries’ use of resources and generation of wastes often rises as production grows, then may fall as cleaner technologies and better environmental practices come into use. While this trend has been theorized, empirical evidence has been mixed.
Economists who study international development often focus on measuring countries’ aggregate and per-capita volumes of output. However, the mix of industries and products — the diversity within an economy — is an important and under-appreciated variable in predicting potential growth, according to scholars at the Center for International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School.
As the world’s population continues to grow, measuring countries’ water consumption patterns is crucial for understanding looming resource challenges and making effective international policy decisions.