Skip to main content

C02 emissions and fertility rates


Finally, a short break. I have been working on my main topic, the nexus of energy and development. And eventually of course the implications for the surplus approach. As part of a recent department environmental sustainability seminar centering on the models of Armon Rezai (and Lance Taylor and Duncan Foley), I presented data and (gasp!) forecasts using the Kaya model of carbon intensity. Surprisingly, there is hope in the data.

One of the points that leapt from the data is that population dynamics are a far greater weight on carbon emissions than the greening of the energy supply ("carbon intensity") and efficiency of energy consumption ("energy intensity"). Respectively, population is seven and three times more important in carbon emissions than either of those.

So, fertility becomes an (the?) important issue in climate debates. The data on global GDP per capita growth are among the most stable, and therefore predictable, that I have seen in macroeconomic series. In one hundred years, each of us will be earning $70,000 in 2005 USD (up from $7,000). Every one of us. Place your bets. So how many will that be?

The great news is that global fertility levels are plummeting, headed toward population decreases. One can see that in this Hans Rosling inspired motion chart using mainly World Bank data (with a recent addition of Jamie Galbraith's world inequality data based on Henri Theil indices). For those who may be concerned, I have no data on global coitus rates; I presume they remain healthy.

The data indicate that per capita GDP increases, female education, and more equal income distribution correlate with reduced fertility. This is great news since the first two are clearly "in train" around the world based on the data. Distribution, the great economic problem, jeopardizes climate as it becomes less equal in major economies.

Note that China has a current fertility rate of 1.6, below the 2.1 population sustainability rate. The biggest surprise is India, whose fertility at 2.7 was achieved without autarchy, a powerful endorsement of economic progress in damping fertility rates.

So we can have growth with some hope for climate given declining fertility rates even at current projected levels of carbon and energy intensities. My data intensive slides are here (including a discussion of the Kaya model). I gladly take questions. I will defer policy proposals. I need to refine the idea of global Fed helicopter drops of family planning supplies. (the interrupter of last resort?)

In a future post, with some trepidation, I will investigate the possibility of radical energy regimes and their implications for our economic and respiratory future. Are we approaching the end of the fossil energy epoch? An incredibly interesting question.
Link

Comments

  1. Two points that you may want to emphasize. First, in Keynesian fashion you are not arguing for less growth or degrowth (as do some green Marxists). Second, more radical improvement on the income distribution front would also be green. On a different point, I do have some episodical data on coitus, but would rather keep it private.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great points on which I fully agree. Further in the weeds of climate models lurk the mysteries of "damage functions" which modelers invoke to limit growth of output and emissions.

    We may have instead a natural limiter, reduced fertility, which of course is not a damage function. A far more hopeful story. At this rate, I may never be awarded my Carlyle credentials.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What is the 'Classical Dichotomy'?

A few brief comments on Brexit and the postmortem of the European Union

Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.

The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…

A brief note on Venezuela and the turn to the right in Latin America

So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.

The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…