Economic Growth and Carbon Emissions: The Road to “Hothouse Earth” is Paved with Good Intentions

Enno Schröder*, Servaas Storm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
183 Downloads (Pure)


De-carbonization to restrict future global warming to 1.5 °C is technically feasible but may impose a “limit” or “planetary boundary” to economic growth, depending on whether or not human society can decouple growth from emissions. In this paper, we assess the viability of decoupling. First, we develop a prognosis of climate-constrained global growth for 2014–2050 using the transparent Kaya identity. Second, we use the Carbon-Kuznets-Curve framework to assess the effect of economic growth on emissions using measures of territorial and consumption-based emissions. We run fixed-effects regressions using OECD data for 58 countries during 2007–2015 and source alternative emissions data starting in 1992 from two other databases. While there is weak evidence suggesting a decoupling of emissions and growth at high-income levels, the main estimation sample indicates that emissions are monotonically increasing with per-capita GDP. We draw out the implications for climate policy and binding emission reduction obligations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-173
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Political Economy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Carbon-Kuznets-Curve
  • climate change
  • consumption-based CO emissions
  • decoupling
  • economic growth
  • F64
  • Paris agreement
  • Q54
  • Q55
  • Q56


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