Carbon dioxide emissions increase during economic growth more than they decrease during economic decline, according to an empirical study published online this week in Nature Climate Change.
Previous estimates showed that during economic expansions emissions grow, whereas the reverse happens during recessions. Richard York analyzed the relationship between global carbon dioxide emissions and gross domestic product (GDP), both in per capita terms, from 1960 to 2008. The author found that for each one-per-cent increase in GDP, emissions grew by 0.733%, whereas for each one-per-cent reduction in GDP, emissions decreased by only 0.430%. The asymmetric pattern — possibly explained by the fact that economic growth produces goods such as buildings and infrastructure that remain in place during recessions — signals that history matters, an important finding for modelling emissions.