Quality of life and energy use: Is there a fair energy use level?

Aydemir M. O. , Soytaş U.

in: Routledge Handbook of Energy Economics, Uğur Soytaş,Ramazan Sarı, Editor, Routledge, London/New York , London, pp.289-306, 2020

  • Publication Type: Book Chapter / Chapter Research Book
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Publisher: Routledge, London/New York 
  • City: London
  • Page Numbers: pp.289-306
  • Editors: Uğur Soytaş,Ramazan Sarı, Editor
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


There are diverse views about how to sustain a safe and coherent relationship between humanity

and nature. Main distinctions center around the two following connected questions of sustainability:

“Is natural capital substitutable to human-made capital or not?” and – if substitutable –

“What is the extent of this substitution?” One argument is that increasing income will eventually

lead to a decline in human related ecological degradation (environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis)

(Grossman and Krueger, 1991). Main basis for this idea is the assumption that technologic

improvements will make us more efficient in using natural resources and human made capital will

be able to replace natural capital in most cases (Grossman and Krueger, 1995). Proponents usually

justify this idea by claiming that people will be more demanding about environmental quality

with increased wealth and put pressure on politicians and adjust behavior in markets towards that

demand (Beckerman, 1992). Although the theory may explain the success of high developed

countries in curbing air pollution, as several empirical studies show, there has not been strong

evidence of such a trend between CO2 and GDP as is implied in the environmental Kuznets

curve (Yandle et al., 2002; Stern, 2014). It may be possible to observe a decoupling between

increasing income and carbon dioxide emissions in some highly developed countries; however,

this does not necessarily mean that there is really a decoupling at the global level (see Chapter

10 for a discussion of the link between carbon emissions and energy use). What lies behind the

carbon reduction success of some developed countries may be their ability to transfer the carbonintensive

production activities to other countries. Therefore, when a country is becoming more

environmentally efficient on paper, it may be due to this shift in the structure of the economy.

This does not guarantee a decline in total global emission budget.