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Stoking the Fires? Co2 Emissions and Economic Growth

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin
  • Thomas M. Selden

Over the past decade, concern over potential global warming has focused attention on the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and there is an active debate concerning the desirability of reducing emissions. At the heart of this debate is the future path of both greenhouse gas emissions and economic development among the nations. We use global panel data to estimate the relationship between per capita income and carbon dioxide emissions, and then use the estimated trajectories to forecast global emissions of CO2. The analysis yields four major results. First, the evidence suggests a diminishing marginal propensity to emit (MPE) CO2 as economies develop; a result masked in analyses that rely on cross-section data alone. Second, despite the diminishing MPE, our forecasts indicate that global emissions of CO2 will continue to grow at an annual rate of 1.8 percent. Third, continued growth stems from the fact that economic and population growth will be most rapid in the lower-income nations that have the highest MPE. For this reason, there will be an inevitable tension between policies to control greenhouse gas emissions and those toward the global distribution of income. Finally, our sensitivity analyses suggest that the pace of economic development does not dramatically alter the future annual or cumulative flow of CO2 emissions.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4248.

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Date of creation: Dec 1992
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Publication status: published as Journal of Public Economics, vol. 57, pp. 85-101, 1995
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4248
Note: ITI PE
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  1. Robert J. Barro, 1989. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," NBER Working Papers 3120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rudiger Dornbusch & James M. Poterba (ed.), 1991. "Global Warming: Economic Policy Responses," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026204126x, June.
  3. James M. Poterba, 1991. "Tax Policy to Combat Global Warming: On Designing a Carbon Tax," NBER Working Papers 3649, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Newey, Whitney & Rosen, Harvey S, 1988. "Estimating Vector Autoregressions with Panel Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(6), pages 1371-95, November.
  5. Hettige, Hemamala & Lucas, Robert E B & Wheeler, David, 1992. "The Toxic Intensity of Industrial Production: Global Patterns, Trends, and Trade Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 478-81, May.
  6. Levine, Ross & Renelt, David, 1992. "A Sensitivity Analysis of Cross-Country Growth Regressions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 942-63, September.
  7. Mundlak, Yair, 1978. "On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 69-85, January.
  8. Shafik, Nemat & Bandyopadhyay, Sushenjit, 1992. "Economic growth and environmental quality : time series and cross-country evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 904, The World Bank.
  9. Grossman, Gene & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement," CEPR Discussion Papers 644, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. William R. Cline, 1992. "Economics of Global Warming, The," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 39.
  11. Selden Thomas M. & Song Daqing, 1994. "Environmental Quality and Development: Is There a Kuznets Curve for Air Pollution Emissions?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 147-162, September.
  12. Alan Manne & Richard Richels, 1992. "Buying Greenhouse Insurance: The Economic Costs of CO2 Emission Limits," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026213280x, June.
  13. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
  14. Schelling, Thomas C, 1992. "Some Economics of Global Warming," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 1-14, March.
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