Carbon Dioxide and the Global Economy

January 12, 2009 |

The figure below shows the relationship of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (with data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency) with global GDP (as measured in PPP terms and reported by Maddison).

A few things stand out.

First, the relationship between economic activity and carbon dioxide emissions is exceedingly close.

Second, from 2001 to 2006 the rate of increase of emissions per
dollar of economic activity doubled as compared to the period 1990 to
2000. This is the same change in emissions that we documented in Nature
last spring (PDF).

Third, while it is uncertain what exact effect the global economic
slowdown will have on emissions, a good bet is that emissions will
increase at a rate proportionately less. Though there is some
uncertainty due to the fact that the sowdown may manifest itself to a
greater extent in less carbon intensive sectors of the economy, such as
in banking.

Finally, in 2006 the world averaged 0.62 tonnes of carbon dioxide
for each thousand dollars of economic activity. To achieve goals of
decarbonization of the global economy will require that this figure be
reduced to between 0.15 to 0.25 tonnes per thousand dollars by 2030
(depending on your target and assuming a 3.5% annual GDP at PPP growth
rate). No developed country in the world is anywhere close to achieving
this level of decarbonization and no country is remotely on a path to
meet such a goal.


Any two increasing trends will always correlate. We could plot the number of blogs vs GDP (or CO2 emissions) and prove what Pielke "proved", nothing.

By Eli Rabett on 2009 04 07

Not according to our new Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu. Please see his presentation below at the National Clean Energy Summit on why investments in energy efficiency and carbon reduction are "good" for business, economies, standard of living, GDP growth, health care, education, and such (despite your claims above).

A few things stand out ... GDP growth from 1990 to 2006 is an odd time frame to draw on. Most of the growth during this period has to do with a series of bubbles: technology, finance, housing, and the like. We've seen the bursting of these bubbles and significant volatility in these markets. It's time to take a pro-growth look at new energy development (a primary mover and base condition for business development), and work to promote new industries at home that can become the source of jobs, manufacturing, wealth redistribution (to middle class), and overall and sustainable long term GDP growth.

By EL on 2009 01 13