I’ve just discovered this cool tool from Google called Gapminder. It lets you graph various developmental indicies against each other over time for the past 25-30 odd years.
One thing I found interesting is that the plot of CO2 emissions per capita, versus GDP per capita. In 1975, plotting it log/log gives you a pretty straight line (excluding China), so we have an exponent of around 2 approximately, so if we double GDP, we were typically quadrupling of CO2 emissions. These are done very roughly by picking them off the screen so don’t trust them too much. Now if I roll it forward to 2002, it seems that there are now two regimes, a low GDP regime where the CO2 usage increases as fast as ever with GDP (exponent of around 2), and a “high” GDP regime (greater than about $4500) where the exponent would seem to be less than one. ie. when we double GDP, we less than double CO2 usage. I would imagine this is in part due to the oil shocks, transforming behaviour in western countries.
Anyway this type of thing gives me some hope we can make further progress and get that slope down to zero or less and increase GDP without increasing CO2 output. Current world oil prices will be helping.