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Strong correlations between economic growth and environmental impacts

Perpetual economic growth is incompatible with a finite planet. To some extent, innovation can reduce throughput, thus ‘decoupling’ economic growth from environmental impacts. However, the level of decoupling has been ‘relative’, which means that impacts still grow, just not as fast as the Gross World Product (GWP) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Gross World Product (GWP), World primary energy consumption and World consumption emissions (based on WB 2020; BP 2020; GCA 2020).

An indication of a strong coupling between economic growth and environmental impacts is suggested by a strong long-term correlation between the two (Figure 2). The GWP growth rate is strongly correlated with both world primary energy consumption growth (Pearson correlation coefficient: 0,88) and world consumption emissions growth (0,75).

Figure 2. Growth rates of GWP, primary energy consumption and consumption emissions (based on WB 2020; BP 2020; GCA 2020).

Sources

British Petroleum (BP) (2020). Statistical Review of World Energy. Retrieved 21 Aug, 2020, from https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html.

Global Carbon Atlas (GCA) (2020). CO2 Emissions. Retrieved 21 Aug, 2020, from http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions.

World Bank (WB) (2020). World Development Indicators. Retrieved 19 Aug, 2020, from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD.

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