Are per capita carbon emissions predictable across countries?

J Environ Manage. 2019 May 1:237:569-575. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.01.081. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


Background: China and other developing countries in Asia follow similar economic growth patterns described by the flying geese (FG) model, which explains the "catching-up" process of industrialization in latecomer economies. Japan, newly industrialized economies, and China have followed this path, with similar economic development trajectories. Based on the FG model, we postulated a "flying S" hypothesis stating that if a country is located within an FG region and its energy matrix is relatively constant, its per capita CO2 emission curve will mirror that of "leading geese" countries in the same FG group.

Method: Historical CO2 emissions data were obtained from literature review and national reports and were calculated using bottom-up methods. A sigmoid-shaped, non-linear mixed effect model was applied to examine ex post data with 1000 simulated predictions to construct 95% empirical bands from these fits. By multiplying by estimated population, we predicted total emissions of selected FG countries.

Results: Per capita CO2 emissions from the same FG group mirror each other, especially among second and third industrial sectors. We estimated an annual 18,252.24 million tons of CO2 emissions (MtCO2) (95% CI = 9458.88-23,972.88) in China and 8281.76 MtCO2 (95% CI = 2765.68-14,959.12) in India in 2030.

Conclusion: This study bridges the macroeconomic FG paradigm to study climate change and proposes a "flying S" hypothesis to predict greenhouse gas emissions in East Asia. By applying our theory to empirical data, we provide an alternative framework to predict CO2 emissions in 2030 and beyond.

Keywords: CO(2); Climate change; Economic development; Emission; Flying geese; Greenhouse gas; Macroeconomic.

MeSH terms

  • Asia
  • Carbon Dioxide*
  • Carbon*
  • China
  • India
  • Japan


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon