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IRENE Working Paper No. 15-05
University of Neuchâtel, Institute of Economic Research (IRENE), Neuchâtel
We construct the world's centers of gravity for human population, GDP and CO2 emissions by taking the best out of five recognized data sources covering the last two centuries. We also propose a more appropriate two-map representation of the location of the center of gravity, which abstracts from the usual distortions affecting the projection of a point within a three-dimensional sphere on a two-dimensional map. This allows for a more accurate interpretation of the underlying trends. We find a radical Western shift of GDP and CO2 emissions centers during the 19th century, in sharp contrast with the stability of the demographic center of gravity. Both GDP and emissions trends are reversed in the first half of the 20th century, after World War I for CO2 emissions, and after World War II for GDP. Since then, both centers are moving eastward at an accelerating speed. These patterns are consistent with the initial lead of Western countries starting the industrial revolution and the adoption of fossil fuels as its main energy source, the impact of world con flicts, the gradual replacement of coal by oil and gas, and the progressive catch up of Asian countries, leading to a convergence in terms of both GDP and CO2 emissions per capita in the recent past.
center of gravity
CO2 emissions
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Working Paper

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