Analysis of the international distribution of per capita CO 2 emissions using the polarization concept
The concept of polarization is linked to the extent that a given distribution leads to the formation of homogeneous groups with opposing interests. This concept, which is basically different from the traditional one of inequality, is related to the level of inherent potential conflict in a distribution. The polarization approach has been widely applied in the analysis of income distribution. The extension of this approach to the analysis of international distribution of CO2 emissions is quite useful as it gives a potent informative instrument for characterizing the state and evolution of the international distribution of emissions and its possible political consequences in terms of tensions and the probability of achieving agreements. In this paper we analyze the international distribution of per capita CO2 emissions between 1971 and 2001 through the adaptation of the polarization concept and measures. We find that the most interesting grouped description deriving from the analysis is a two groups’ one, which broadly coincide with Annex B and non-Annex B countries of the Kyoto Protocol, which shows the power of polarization analysis for explaining the generation of groups in the real world. The analysis also shows a significant reduction in international polarization in per capita CO2 emissions between 1971 and 1995, but not much change since 1995, which might indicate that polarized distribution of emission is still one of the important factors leading to difficulties in achieving agreements for reducing global emissions.