Keywords: global climate change, economic growth, carbon emissions, technological progress, USA, United States, economic development, carbon dioxide
US carbon emissions, technological progress and economic growth since 1870
The long-term US experience emphasises the importance of controlling for electrification and other major technology transformations when evaluating the growth of carbon emissions at different stages of development. Prior to World War I, carbon emissions grew faster than economic growth by 2.3% per year. As electricity use expanded and steam engines became much larger, carbon emissions began to grow slower than economic growth by 1.6% per year. Adjusting to this technological shift, an expanding economy continues to increase carbon emissions by about 9% for each 10% faster growth. There is little evidence of a decline in this elasticity as the income level rises. These results suggest that the USA today will need to find additional policies to curb carbon emissions if it wishes to prevent any further increase in its per capita emissions, and if its per capita economy grows by more than 1.8% per year.