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The Impact of Climate on Atmospheric Emissions: Constructing an Index of Heating Degrees for 21 OECD Countries from 1960 to 2005

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  • 1 Department of Political Science, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany
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Abstract

The impact of climate on atmospheric emissions is a highly neglected aspect in research on environmental performance. Cold winters may be a major factor for the increase in heating needs and energy consumption, which may in turn lead to substantial increases in atmospheric emissions, thus contributing to climate change. To measure such an impact, this article develops an index that measures the heating requirements in highly populated regions in 21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries from 1960 to 2005. Applying this index of heating degree months (HDMs) to atmospheric emissions shows that climate has a significant effect. This is above all true for particular atmospheric emissions that have not been substantially reduced over the last three decades. For atmospheric emissions that have been substantially reduced, climate has no explanatory power, suggesting that other factors such as policies and technological development may explain the reduction. These results remain robust when controlling for various aspects of energy production, economic development, and structural changes.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/ WCAS-D-11-00050.s1.

Corresponding author address: Detlef Jahn, Baderstr. 6/7, 17487 Greifswald, Germany. E-mail: djahn@uni-greifswald.de

Abstract

The impact of climate on atmospheric emissions is a highly neglected aspect in research on environmental performance. Cold winters may be a major factor for the increase in heating needs and energy consumption, which may in turn lead to substantial increases in atmospheric emissions, thus contributing to climate change. To measure such an impact, this article develops an index that measures the heating requirements in highly populated regions in 21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries from 1960 to 2005. Applying this index of heating degree months (HDMs) to atmospheric emissions shows that climate has a significant effect. This is above all true for particular atmospheric emissions that have not been substantially reduced over the last three decades. For atmospheric emissions that have been substantially reduced, climate has no explanatory power, suggesting that other factors such as policies and technological development may explain the reduction. These results remain robust when controlling for various aspects of energy production, economic development, and structural changes.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/ WCAS-D-11-00050.s1.

Corresponding author address: Detlef Jahn, Baderstr. 6/7, 17487 Greifswald, Germany. E-mail: djahn@uni-greifswald.de

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