CR 38:17-29 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00773

Development and greenhouse gas emissions deviate from the ‘modernization’ theory and ‘convergence’ hypothesis

P. Romero Lankao1,*, D. Nychka2, J. L. Tribbia1,3

1Institute for the Study of Society and Environment (ISSE), 2Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences (IMAGe), National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA
3Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA

ABSTRACT: Projections of future climate change partly depend on the assumptions made for future emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). These emissions are typically represented through an emissions scenario that posits a particular trajectory of development for the global society over the time of the projection. Since GHG emissions have a substantial impact on climate change, a relevant issue is what theories provide a good framework for addressing the drivers of GHG. We address 2 key research questions in this context: (1) Are carbon emissions attributable to structural change? If so, is it necessary to focus on the trajectories of carbon intensity or also on total emissions? (2) Does the development path of developing countries follow that of industrialized nations (convergence hypothesis) or is it suppressed in some areas and augmented in others due to world hierarchy and heterogeneity? Two development theories that have been applied to understand the drivers of GHG emissions are the modernization theory (MT) and the world economy theory (WET). In this paper, we use a statistical cluster analysis of economic data at the country level to test these theories and explore the convergence hypothesis with respect to GDP and GHG emissions. Results show no evidence of convergence among countries’ welfare and emissions in the near term as a consequence of the MT. These results suggest that caution should be exercised in using the MT as basis for developing future emissions scenarios and that more attention should be paid to the WET.


KEY WORDS: CO2 emissions · Socioeconomic drivers · Development · Scenario · Climate change · Cluster analysis


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Cite this article as: Romero Lankao P, Nychka D, Tribbia JL (2008) Development and greenhouse gas emissions deviate from the ‘modernization’ theory and ‘convergence’ hypothesis. Clim Res 38:17-29. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00773

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