Can we reduce the emissions per service to reduce total emissions?

Unlike population and consumption, the emissions released per service have been decreasing over the past decades [1]. This is shown by the fact that the amount of CO2 emissions per dollar of standardized Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by 43% between 1970 and 2014 [1]. The standardized Gross Domestic Product is a measure of the total financial value of finished products and services[2,3,4].

Look at the graph that shows the decrease since the 1950s in CO2 emissions per standardized global $GDP per person [1].

In other words, for every ‘thing’ that we consume, we cause less climate change than we did 50 years ago [1].

This was achieved because less energy is needed to make a product and fewer emissions are released per unit energy generated [5,6,7].

Engineers and scientists have created technologies that decrease the emissions from a lot of our consumption [5,8,9]. Firstly, we can now generate energy in ways that produce far less greenhouse gas emissions [10,11]. For example, 8.5% of power was from low-emission sources like wind, solar and nuclear power in 2018, compared to just 1.19% in 1950 [10].

Moreover, we now have products and services that use less energy [5]. For example, in 1975, the average car emitted about 680g of CO2 for every mile it drove, whilst today, driving a mile only emits 350g of CO2 [12].

In the next post we’ll look at whether we can continue to decrease these emissions in our aim to reach zero total emissions!


[1] Decrease from 0.61kg/$ in 1970 to 0.35 kg/$ in 2014 ((0.61-0.35)/0.61 x100 = 42.62% decrease). GDP per person is standardized using Purchasing Power Parity and the international-$ in 2011.

[2] Within article see: What is GDP?

[3] See: Table (All Countries and Economies, filter by Most Recent Value (millions) descending)


[5] Within article see: CO2 intensity of economies

[6] See: 1. Main points, bullet 3, and 5. UK’s structural change

[7] See: Chapter 5, Emissions Intensity. Paragraph starting ‘Energy-intensity levels are not well correlated with economic development levels’

[8] Within report see especially: 2 Impacts on rates of energy efficiency improvement

[9] Within article see: table

[10] See: Global primary energy consumption. 2018: 0.39 other renewables + 0.36 solar + 0.79 wind + 4.4 nuclear + 2.6 hydropower = 8.54%. 1950: 1.19 hydropower. Traditional biofuels (like burning wood and crop waste) do not count as low-emission unlike modern biofuels, included in ‘other renewables’ (see source 10 within reference)

[11] Within paper see: abstract

[12] See: 1. New vehicle estimated real-world CO2 emissions are at a record low and fuel economy is at a record high and Figure ES-1

Join our Newsletter!


Climate Science Ltd
Company Nr: 12370672
Registered in England & Wales
Mail: [email protected]


15 Hope Close
United Kingdom

Climate Science is registered as a non-profit company limited by guarantee in England and Wales.

Copyright © 2019-2020 Climate Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Climate Science uses Cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.