The Carbon Footprint of Capital

We think of capital, the assets we use in production, as heavy: machines, buildings, infrastructure, trucks and railroads. Being composed mostly of cement and steel, we would expect their production to cause a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. In a new paper, published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, we offer a first detailed analysis of the carbon footprint of gross fixed capital formation across countries and sectors. The picture that emerges is interesting because of some small surprises.

First of all, capital is big. Capital formation constitutes about one-quarter of gross global product in monetary terms. It causes about 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Leaving it out is a pretty big oversight.

Second, capital formation varies across countries. The country with the highest capital…

Announcing the winner of the Yale Environment Review’s First Editor’s Choice Competition

The staff at the Yale Environment Review would like to announce the winner and finalists for the first-ever Editor’s Choice Competition.

The winner of the first-ever YER Editor’s Choice Competition is Christina Stone, with her article Energy innovation and emissions reduction strategies overlook the poor.

Here is a preview of her article:

“Curbing greenhouse gas emissions is a very hot topic these days. Between mitigating climate change and eliminating air pollution, environmental policy has the energy sector in its crosshairs. The good news is that innovation in clean energy and renewable sources holds great investment potential. However, innovation is moving at a glacial pace due to a lack of attention from policymakers. Currently, efforts put into energy innovation are generally focused on emissions reduction. While this may…