Population, Affluence or Technology? An Empirical Look at National Carbon Dioxide Production

  • William R. Moomaw
  • D. Mark Tullis


A major debate is currently being waged regarding the causes of environmental problems. Those with a Malthusian perspective argue that environmental problems are ultimately population-driven, and that the rapid growth of population in developing countries is a major cause of local and global environmental deterioration.1 Others argue that the industrial nations are primarily responsible for environmental damage, and that affluence is the major cause of pollution.2 In international fora such as the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, this debate often splits along North-South lines, creating tension during international negotiations. The population-affluence debate continued at the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in September 1994. A third perspective focuses instead on technology, arguing that technological choices are either the cause of, or the solution to, environmental problems.3


Gross Domestic Product Carbon Emission Technology Factor Carbon Intensity Capita Gross Domestic Product 
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  1. 2.
    W. Howard, ‘Man’s Population—Environment Crisis’, Natural Resources Lawyer 4 (1971): 106.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See, for example, B. Commoner et al., ‘Data on the US Economy’ op. cit.; and B. Commoner, M. Corr and P. J. Stamler, ‘The Causes of Pollution’, Environment 13 (1971): 2.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    W.R. Moomaw and D.M. Tullis, ‘Charting Development Paths: A Multi-Country Comparison of Carbon Dioxide Emissions’, in Industrial Ecology and Global Change, ed. R. Socolow (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    R. Summers and A. Heston, ‘The Penn World Table (Mark V): An Expanded Set of International Comparisons, 1950–1988’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 106 (1991): 327–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 8.
    P.R. Ehrlich and J.R Holdren, ‘Impact on Population Growth’, Science 171 (1974): 1212–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© William R. Moomaw and D. Mark Tullis 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • William R. Moomaw
  • D. Mark Tullis

There are no affiliations available

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