Global carbon dioxide emissions scenarios: Sensitivity to social and technological factors in three regions

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Abstract

Carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2100 AD are decomposed into the product of four factors: population size, affluence (measured here as GDP per capita), energy intensity (energy use per unit GDP) and carbon intensity (carbon dioxide emissions per unit energy). These emissions factors are further subdivided into three regions: more developed countries (MDCs), China, and the remaining less developed countries (LDCs). Departures from a baseline scenario (based on IPCC, 1992a — the so-called ‘business-as-usual’ scenario) are calculated for a variety of alternative assumptions concerning the four emissions factors in the three regions. Although the IPCC scenario is called a ‘non-intervention’ scenario, it is shown, for example, that large decreases in energy intensity in China or carbon intensity in MDCs are built into the ‘business as usual’ case — and such large changes vary considerably from region to region. We show what CO2 emissions would look like if each of these four emissions factors projected in the baseline case somehow remained constant at 1990 levels. Certain factors like energy intensity improvements and long-term population growth in LDCs, or GDP growth and carbon intensity improvements in MDCs, are shown to have a big contribution to cumulative global emissions to 2100 AD, and consequently, changes in these projected factors will lead to significant deviations from baseline emissions. None of the scenarios examined in this analysis seems to indicate that any one global factor is clearly dominant, but cultural, economic, and political costs or opportunities of altering each factor may differ greatly from country to country.