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Geographical factors impact on carbon dioxide emissions

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Countries with cold climates and widely dispersed populations produce significantly higher carbon dioxide emissions - the key contributor to global climate change - according to a paper by Dr Eric Neumayer, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), in the Royal Geographical Society's Area magazine published today [Monday 1 March]. The findings have important implications for the negotiation of emission reductions for countries.

Economists have generally explained differences in carbon dioxide emissions using per capita income as their gauge, whereby emissions first rise with increasing income but at a decreasing rate. Geographical factors have been largely neglected by economic analysis and were paid little attention in Kyoto environmental summit in 1997.

Using data from up to 163 countries, the report's author Dr Eric Neumayer from LSE, found that geography is also an important predictor of the worst polluters besides economics. Countries with cold average minimum temperatures or a large average number of frost days produce more carbon dioxide emissions because of higher heating requirements.

Other national geographical factors are also significant. Big countries with scattered populations have higher emissions than smaller countries with more dense populations. This is due to the higher transportation requirements of the larger, less concentrated countries. Countries with an abundance of renewable energy resources on their doorsteps - such as large volumes of water at high levels for hydroelectric power - also have lower emissions. The exact results are highly model-dependent. But in one model, Neumayer's estimation results suggest that if, for example, the United Kingdom had Portugal's climate and access to the hydroelectric water power of Austria then her per capita emissions might be around 35 per cent lower than what they are.

The results of this study have important implications for the way we see nations and the fair allocation of emission reductions. The study strengthens the case for geographical aspects to be considered in the negotiations of emission reductions which is currently predominantly based on economic factors and political considerations.

Commenting on the results of his research, Eric Neumayer said: 'It is often argued that high emitters should face more stringent emission reductions than low emitters. One needs to ask, however, why emissions are higher in one country than in another. High emissions can be partly the result of geographical disadvantage. In future negotiations, geographical differences across countries should be taken more into account.'


For further information, please contact Tina Gardner, communications officer, Royal Geographical Society, on 020 7591 3019; mobile 07733 22 7896; or email press@rgs.org|

Notes to editors

1. Dr Eric Neumayer is senior lecturer in environment and development in the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is available for interview on 020 7955 7598 or 020 7837 2527 or email: e.neumayer@lse.ac.uk| 

His research interests and expertise include: Investment, trade and the environment; Determinants of aid allocation; Governance and debt relief; Determinants of environmental commitment; Global environmental change; Sustainable development; Monetary indicators of sustainable development; Economic growth and the environment. More information on environmental research at LSE can be found here|, at LSE Environment: Centre for Environmental Policy and Governance. 

2. Area is one of three scholarly journals produced by the RGS-IBG and published by Blackwells four times a year. Area is one of the most widely read and discussed journals in British professional geography.

3. Authors alone are responsible for the opinions expressed in their articles and are not endorsed as the Society's collective view.

4. The Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body representing geography and geographers. It was founded in 1830 and has been one of the most active of the learned societies ever since. It was pivotal in establishing geography as a teaching and research discipline in British universities, and has played a key role in geographical and environmental education ever since. Today the Society is a leading world centre for geographical learning - supporting education, teaching, research and scientific expeditions, as well as promoting public understanding and enjoyment of geography. www.rgs.org| 

Press cuttings

Science Daily (2 March)
Geographical factors impact on carbon dioxide emissions
Countries with cold climates and widely dispersed populations produce significantly higher carbon dioxide emissions - the key contributor to global climate change - according to a paper in the Royal Geographical Society's Area magazine. Dr Eric Neumayer, LSE, author of the report quoted.

Daily Telegraph (1 March)
Geography affects levels of pollution
A country's geography could have a significant impact on the amount of carbon dioxide it produces, new research suggests. The report by Dr Eric Neumayer, LSE's department of geography and environment, said future discussions on reducing carbon dioxide emissions should take account of a country's physical characteristics.

1 March 2004