The Kaya Identity expresses carbon dioxide emission levels as a product of population, Gross Domestic Product per capita (personal wealth), energy intensity (energy per GDP) and carbon intensity (CO2 emissions per energy consumed). Developed by Yoichi Kaya, its mathematical notation is where F is carbon dioxide emissions, P is population, G is GDP, and E is energy consumption.
It can be calculated not only for global emissions, and hence for modeling, but also for individual economies. Although it has been viewed as tautological by some(1), the IPCC report also uses it. “The Kaya multiplicative identity. . . underlies the analysis of the emissions scenario literature.”(2)
The World Bank data make it easy to calculate the index. The chart below, produced using the Bank data, shows clearly the steep increase in Turkey’s carbon footprint. If the present trend continues, the carbon emissions are likely to increase for the foreseeable future.
It is obvious that population plays an important role in the size of an economy, and the bigger an economy gets, the more it will need and consume energy. Liberal economics primarily focuses on economic growth, which, regardless of how incomes are distributed or to what extent growth is translated into development, is deemed desirable for raising standards of living. One question at this point is how far we can go without depleting the world’s resources. Another question can be raised regarding climate change and global warming. However, in a capitalist, and therefore, consumption-based economy where firms produce commodities in a competitive (and also in oligopolistic) conditions it is difficult to imagine producers coming up with alternative (environmentally friendly, so-called sustainable) policies and technologies unless they are forced to do so through government regulation.
Energy intensity can be reduced by developing technology to increase efficiency in energy use. Furthermore, development of renewable energy sources (wind, solar and other forms of energy) should reduce carbon emissions, but again, this is a matter of the extent to which governments can enact and enforce regulations to reduce harmful emissions. Otherwise, firms will carry on their business as usual, externalizing their costs regardless of any ethical considerations this kind of behavior might imply. Recent history has countless examples of such blatant violation of ethics and of regulation no matter how permissive or restrictive those regulations might have been.
In the face of global warming, which is well-documented now, it is imperative that governments, including those of Turkey, tackle these issues urgently otherwise humanity moves headlong toward its own demise. As Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, recently put it, “If we collectively chicken out of this, we’ll all turn into chickens and we’ll all be fried, grilled, toasted and roasted.”(3)
(1) Mario Bunge. Evaluating Philosophies. New York: Springer, 2012.