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Political and Economic Effects on Greenhouse Gas Emissions – a Quantitative Study

Ole Martin Lægreid EMAIL logo
From the journal World Political Science

Abstract

This study examines whether there is a curve linear relationship between economic development and greenhouse gas emissions, where poor and rich countries have low emissions while middle-income countries have high emissions. This is a controversial argument that suggests that persistent economic growth is the best means for achieving considerable emission reductions. The study contributes with new knowledge about the causes of variations in greenhouse gas emissions, by analyzing data for greenhouse gas emissions and testing economic explanations in relation to a broad array of political explanations. As the study demonstrates, there is a curve linear relationship between the level of economic development and greenhouse gas emissions, but the turning point – where a higher level of economic development starts to produce lower rather than higher emission levels – is far higher than previously thought. Among the study’s sample of countries, only the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland have experienced a sufficiently high level of economic development in order for increased wealth to result in lower emissions. Among the political impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, the study indicates that countries with consensual political systems produce lower emission levels than countries where the separation of powers is more centralized. A more robust “green” civil society leads to lower emissions in countries where the democratic system is functioning well, and ambitious targets regarding reduction of emissions in the Kyoto Protocol also seems to lower emissions.


Corresponding author: Ole Martin Lægreid, PhD, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Box 711, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden, e-mail:

Appendix

Appendix Table 1

Selection of Countries in the Study.

AustraliaFinlandNetherlandsSweden
AustriaFranceNew ZealandSwitzerland
BelarusGermanyNorwayUK
BelgiumGreecePolandUkraine
BulgariaHungaryPortugalUSA
CanadaIcelandRomania
CroatiaIrelandRussia
Czech RepItalySlovakia
DenmarkJapanSlovenia
EstoniaLithuaniaSpain

Monaco, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, and Turkey are also members of UNFCCC’s Annex I, but they are omitted from the study’s selection (see page 10 for further discussion).

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Published Online: 2014-8-13
Published in Print: 2014-10-1

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