The environmental Kuznets curve after 25 years

Author name: 
David I. Stern

The environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) has been the dominant approach among economists to modeling aggregate pollution emissions and ambient pollution concentrations over the last quarter century. Despite this, the EKC was criticized almost from the start and decomposition approaches have been more popular in other disciplines working on global climate change. More recently, convergence approaches to modeling emissions have become popular. This paper reviews the history of the EKC and alternative approaches. Applying an approach that synthesizes the EKC and convergence approaches, I show that convergence is important for explaining both pollution emissions and concentrations. On the other hand, while economic growth has had a monotonic positive effect on carbon and sulfur emissions, the EKC holds for concentrations of particulates. Negative time effects are important for sulfur emissions. The EKC seems to be most useful for modeling the ambient concentrations of pollutants it was originally applied to.

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