"It is the unhappy fate of the scientist today that he must play the role of Cassandra in the body politic, sending his fellow men to bed with nightmares in the hope to be heard in time."

- Arthur von Hippel, in "The Molecular Designing of Materials" (h/t @upbeatprof)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mind the Gap

Dr. Stoat points to an interesting bit of Gapminder abuse by RPJr and a rebuttal by Stuart Saniford.

This got me to wondering how well per capita CO2 emissions predict per capita wealth. I used a lin/lin scale and focused in on the wealthy countries.

The answer: while per capita income above $15K predicts higher emissions than below $15K, above that threshhold the value of emissions as a predictor of wealth is very small. (Dot size is scaled to total population.)

There are a few outliers on the high sides, all small countries:

high income: Bermuda ($73.5K, 8.6T)
high emissions: Trinidad ($17.4 K, 32T), Aruba($26.4K, 32T), Bahrain($28.5K, 30T) Kuwait($44.4K, 36T)
high on both scales: Luxembourg ($72.7K, 24T)

Conclusion: at least a four-fold reduction in CO2 emissions in North America (with present day technology) is compatible with comparable levels of wealth and well-being.

Technical note: to restrict the focus of your Gapminder graph, click the little arrow at lower right on a live Gapminder session.


Steve L said...

broken link at "value of emissions..."

Michael Tobis said...

Fixed. Thanks.

Ian said...

In Trinidad and Tobago's case (and probably Bahrain and Kuwait to some extent) you're looking at outsourced carbon emissions. Apart from the emissions associated with oil and gas production and refining, we also are a major producer of LNG, methanol and urea, all for export.

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks, Ian. I suspected as much. This is the same reason that Texas' per capita emissions are so much higher than other states.

It is difficult to do the accounting in big countries, though.

For instance, China digs up coal to power its own factories, mostly producing products for export. Should this be charged to China? Well, who else then? And how?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Michael- What happens if you show the whole graph, not just the part between 10,000 and 50,000 dollars?

Here is that graph:

A somewhat different picture, eh?

Kooiti Masuda said...

An attempt to evaluate carbon footprint of outsourcing is found in the paper of Davis and Caldeira
[Paper (Proc. NAS in 2010)], [Press release].

David B. Benson said...

Already in 1972 Nicholas Kaldor wrote (The Economics Journal) of The Irrelevance of Equilibrium Economics.
By now there is a florishing Non-equilibrium economics with subfields such a ecological economics and so on.

David B. Benson said...

The Foundations of Non-Equilibrium Economics: The principle of circular and cumulative causation

Michael Tobis said...

Roger, yes, certainly, as stipulated in the text.

Alexander Ac said...


his name is Stuart Staniford and I read his blog :-)