Why We Can’t Bank on Recessions to Keep Global Warming in Check
Carbon emissions and GDP rise together almost in lockstep, but emissions are slower to fall when economies contract.
Greenhouse gas emissions rise when economies expand but don’t fall as quickly when recession strikes, according to new research that emphasises the risks of relying on economic downturns to keep future emissions in check.
The most likely reason is that carbon-emitting vehicles and infrastructure created as the economy grows continue to be used in harder times, even as the economy contracts.
Based on a review of World Bank statistics of more than 150 nations from 1960 to 2008, the research – published in Nature Climate Change on Sunday – found that emissions of carbon dioxide rose by an average of 0.7% for every 1% growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. But emissions fell just 0.43% for every 1% decline in GDP per capita.
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