Discussion Papers

No.593 Consumption-based Accounting of U.S. CO2 Emissions from 1990 to 2010

by Klaus HUBACEK

March 2016


To tackle global climate change, it is desirable to reduce CO 2 emissions associated with household consumption in particular in developed countries, which tend to have much higher per capita household carbon footprints than less developed countries. Our results show that carbon intensity of different consumption categories in the U.S. varies significantly. The carbon footprint tends to increase with increasing income but at a decreasing rate due to additional income being spent on less carbon intensive consumption items. This general tendency is frequently compensated by higher frequency of international trips and higher housing related carbon emissions (larger houses and more space for consumption items). Our results also show that more than 30% of CO 2 emissions associated with household consumption in the U.S. occur outside of the U.S. Given these facts, the design of carbon mitigation policies should take changing household consumption patterns and international trade into account.

Keywords: CO 2 emissions, household consumption, income group, carbon intensity
JEL classification: E01, F18; C67; F64, H23

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