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Abstract

York, Richard, Eugene A. Rosa and Thomas Dietz. 2003. "A Rift in Modernity? Assessing the Anthropogenic Sources of Global Climate Change with the STIRPAT Model." International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 23.10:31-51.

A scientific consensus has emerged indicating that the global climate is changing due to anthropogenic (i.e., human induced) driving forces. Our previous research reformulated the well-known I=PAT (environmental Impacts equal the multiplicative product of Population, Affluence, and Technology) model into stochastic form, named it the STIRPAT model, and used it to assess the effects of population and affluence on carbon dioxide loads. Here we extend those findings by examining the impacts of population, affluence and other factors on the emissions of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as the combined global warming potential of these two gases. We also assess the potential for “ecological modernization” or an “environmental Kuznets curve” (EKC) effect to curb GHG emissions. Our findings suggest that population is a consistent force behind GHG emissions, that affluence also drives emissions, that urbanization and industrialization increase emissions, and that tropical nations have lower emissions than non-tropical nations, controlling for other factors. Contrary to what ecological modernization and EKC theorists predict, we find that to date there is no compelling evidence of a decline in emissions with modernization. These results support both the “treadmill of production” thesis and the “metabolic rift” thesis.

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