RL33970 - Greenhouse Gas Emission Drivers: Population, Economic Development and Growth, and Energy Use
5-Mar-2010; John Blodgett and Larry Parker; 36 p.
Update: Previous Releases:
February 13, 2008
April 24, 2007
Abstract: In the context of climate change and possible responses to the risk associated
with it, three variables strongly influence the levels and growth of greenhouse gas
emissions: population, income (measured as per capita gross domestic product
[GDP]), and intensity of emissions (measured as tons of greenhouse gas emissions
per million dollars of GDP).
For most countries, and for the world as a whole, population and per capita GDP are rising faster than intensity is declining, so emissions are rising.
Within this generalization, countries vary widely. During the 1990s, in some countries, including India, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Indonesia, and South Africa, population growth alone exceeded the decline in intensity. For China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and South Korea, population growth exceeding 1% per year combined with per capita GDP growth that exceeded the intensity improvement each achieved. For the United States, Canada, and Australia, income growth alone exceeded the decline in intensity. Yet several developed countries improved their per capita GDP while decreasing their emissions: Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Poland; each did so by combining slow population growth (0.4% or less per year) with substantial improvements in intensity (-2.5% or better per year).
Stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions would mean the rate of change equals
zero. Globally, with a population growth rate of 1.4% per year and an income growth
rate of 1.7% per year, intensity would have to decline at a rate of -3.1% per year to
hold emissions at the level of the year that rate of decline went into effect. Within
the United States, at the 1990s population growth rate of 1.2% per year and income
growth rate of 1.8% per year, intensity would have had to decline at a rate of -3.0%
per year to hold emissions level; however, U.S. intensity declined at a rate of -1.6%,
leaving emissions to grow at 1.4% per year. President Bush’s Climate Change
Initiative seeks to increase the rate of intensity decline through 2012 by about -0.4%
per year — well short of stabilizing or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.