Findings - Use Energy, Get Rich and Save the Planet - NYTimes.com: "1. There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology — and that, believe it or not, is good news, because...
2. The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run."
This is no great surprise. Just look at the former Soviet Union. After they became free they started cleaning up a lot of their pollution. Under totalitarianism there was no incentive to keep it clean, just do it cheap. Once you have a business horizon that reaches past next quarters numbers things change very rapidly.
It is one of those (un)intended consequences things that nuclear, one of the cleanest forms of power we have, is actually dirtier now then it was planned on because of laws to keep it clean. A spent fuel rod still has 90% good fuel it just needs to be reprocessed and then used in a different style reactor. We could recycle the fuel we already have for the next century but it is illegal.
People want clean air and water, but there are other tradeoffs as well but when they are rich enough they opt to buy it by making buying decisions that support that, not when they are forced to.