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Are Autocracies Bad for the Environment? Global Evidence from Two Centuries of Data

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Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is crucial for reducing the danger posed by climate change. There are factors for and against democracies in achieving these desired reductions. Using data from 150 countries, we estimate the marginal emission intensity (i.e., the change in per-capita carbon dioxide emissions for a unit change in per-capita income) across autocracies and democracies. We use regional waves of democratization and mean per-capita income of other countries in the region as instruments for democracy and per-capita income, respectively. Using these instruments, we obtain the causal estimate of the difference in marginal emission intensity and confirm that democracies have lower per-capita carbon dioxide emissions per unit increase in per-capita income compared to autocracies. Our results suggest that these benefits of democracies have occurred in recent decades, following the surge in public concerns about climate change and intergovernmental initiatives to reduce emissions. There is also evidence to suggest that strengthening rule enforcement and improving access to justice can be critical in decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

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Keywords: EKC, Environmental Kuznets curve, Turning point, Democracy, Autocracy, Instrumental variable

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.44.2.asin

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Published in Volume 44, Number 2 of the bi-monthly journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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