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Population Growth and Carbon Emissions

Listed author(s):
  • Gregory Casey
  • Oded Galor

We provide evidence that lower fertility can simultaneously increase income per capita and lower carbon emissions, eliminating a trade-off central to most policies aimed at slowing global climate change. We estimate the effect of lower fertility on carbon emissions accounting for the fact that changes in fertility patterns affect carbon emissions through three channels: total population, the age structure of the population, and economic output. Our analysis proceeds in two steps. First, we estimate a version of the STIRPAT equation on an unbalanced yearly panel of cross-country data from 1950-2010. We demonstrate that the coefficient on population is nearly seven times larger than the coefficient on income per capita and that this difference is statistically significant. Thus, regression results imply that 1% slower population growth could be accompanied by an increase in income per capita of nearly 7% while still lowering carbon emissions. In the second part of our analysis, we use a recently constructed economic-demographic model of Nigeria to estimate the effect of lower fertility on carbon emissions accounting for the impacts of fertility on population growth, population age structure, and income per capita. The model was constructed to estimate the effect of lower fertility on economic growth, making it well-suited for this application. We find that by 2100 C.E., moving from the medium to the low variant of the UN fertility projection leads to 35% lower yearly emissions and 15% higher income per capita. These results suggest that population policies could be a part of the approach to combating global climate change.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 22885.

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Date of creation: Dec 2016
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22885
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  1. Robert C. Feenstra & Robert Inklaar & Marcel P. Timmer, 2015. "The Next Generation of the Penn World Table," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(10), pages 3150-3182, October.
  2. Dalton, Michael & O'Neill, Brian & Prskawetz, Alexia & Jiang, Leiwen & Pitkin, John, 2008. "Population aging and future carbon emissions in the United States," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 642-675, March.
  3. Wagner, Martin, 2008. "The carbon Kuznets curve: A cloudy picture emitted by bad econometrics?," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 388-408, August.
  4. Oded Galor, 2012. "The demographic transition: causes and consequences," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 6(1), pages 1-28, January.
  5. Quamrul H. Ashraf & David N. Weil & Joshua Wilde, 2013. "The Effect of Fertility Reduction on Economic Growth," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(1), pages 97-130, March.
  6. York, Richard & Rosa, Eugene A. & Dietz, Thomas, 2003. "STIRPAT, IPAT and ImPACT: analytic tools for unpacking the driving forces of environmental impacts," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 351-365, October.
  7. Liddle, Brantley & Lung, Sidney, 2010. "Age-Structure, Urbanization, and Climate Change in Developed Countries: Revisiting STIRPAT for Disaggregated Population and Consumption-Related Environmental Impacts," MPRA Paper 59579, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory and Comparative Development," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 9-21, April-Jun.
  9. Jutta Brunnée & Charlotte Streck, 2013. "The UNFCCC as a negotiation forum: towards common but more differentiated responsibilities," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(5), pages 589-607, September.
  10. Liddle, Brantley, 2015. "What Are the Carbon Emissions Elasticities for Income and Population? Bridging STIRPAT and EKC via robust heterogeneous panel estimates," MPRA Paper 61304, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Daniel Aaronson & Fabian Lange & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2014. "Fertility Transitions along the Extensive and Intensive Margins," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(11), pages 3701-3724, November.
  12. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477.
  13. Hoyt Bleakley & Fabian Lange, 2009. "Chronic Disease Burden and the Interaction of Education, Fertility, and Growth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 52-65, February.
  14. Liddle, Brantley, 2014. "Impact of population, age structure, and urbanization on carbon emissions/energy consumption: Evidence from macro-level, cross-country analyses," MPRA Paper 61306, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters,in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Mikhail Golosov & John Hassler & Per Krusell & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2014. "Optimal Taxes on Fossil Fuel in General Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 41-88, January.
  17. William Nordhaus, 2015. "Climate Clubs: Overcoming Free-Riding in International Climate Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1339-1370, April.
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