Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Global Kaya Identity

Another post on our chapter in the recently released Working Group III IPCC report, Chapter 5. I previously posted on what got left out of the final edition of the Summary for Policymakers and on the key messages from the whole report.

A key feature of our chapter is that we organized it around the idea of the Kaya Identity, which is an extension of the famous IPAT identity to explain changes in carbon emissions:

or in terms of formulae:

Sections of our chapter deal with each of the terms in the identity. It's important to understand that the identity is not really a causal relationship. A 1% increase in GDP per capita might be associated with less than a 1% increase in carbon emissions if energy intensity for example declines as a result of the increase in income. This seems to be the case in fact as our upcoming research will show. Still, it is a useful accounting framework for understanding the factors driving change. If the other terms in the identity are held constant then a 1% increase in any of the right hand side factors increases emissions by 1%.

In the technical summary we use the Kaya identity to decompose the changes in global energy related carbon dioxide emissions for each of the last four decades:

The bars show that reductions in energy intensity have contributed to the slowing in growth in carbon emissions. However, this has been overwhelmed by the increase in population and income per capita. This exercise made me much more aware of how important population growth has been in driving emissions growth over the last 40 years. In the most recent decade, though, income per capita growth became the most important factor and emissions growth accelerated to a record level.

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