According to a recent study, greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions increase as the economy rises, but don’t seem to fall as drastically when the economy falters. Richard York, of University of Oregon, reviewed 48 years of data from more than 150 nations, statistics kept by World Bank.
According to York, “Economic decline … doesn’t lead to as big a decline in emissions as a comparable amount of economic growth leads to growth in emissions.” He found that for every 1% increase in gross domestic product [GDP], carbon-dioxide [CO2] emissions, the main GHG, rose by an average of 0.73%. For every decrease in GDP, though, there was less of a corresponding decrease in CO2 emissions, just 0.43%.
These statistics are important to forecasters, who are helping world leaders come to some accord on how to attack the global warming phenomenon, since most studies simply assume that GHG emissions and GDP move up and down proportionally.
“The difference might be because new infrastructure added during times of economic growth – new homes, roads or factories – is still used during recession. When economies decline, factories don’t shut down immediately, people don’t stop driving (although they may defer buying a new car),” said York. “and many new buildings still need heating or air-conditioning.”
Scientists agree that CO2 and other GHGs are one of the main causes of global warming. The UN panel of climate scientists says that GHGs leading to globally-rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather patterns, including floods, droughts, heatwaves, stronger storms, and rising sea levels.
Current climate-change scenarios predict the world economy to expand as high as $550 million in 2100, which, according to studies, would raise global temperatures by as much as 11.5°F.
Just how to effect a change, though, has been somewhat difficult. Nearly 200 nations, at the Copenhagen summit in 2009, failed to reach an agreement on how to move forward. They are hoping to reach a global pact by 2015, which could take effect as early as 2020.