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The impact of modern economic growth on climate change (Spain, 1860-2020)

19th National Competition for Economic Research Grants

Economic history

Senior Researcher : Juan Infante Amate

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad de Granada


The main goal of the project was to perform the first estimate of the carbon footprint of the Spanish economy and its relationship with economic growth dynamics. To date, there were only historical fossil fuel CO2 emission series. In this project, we made the first estimate of total emissions, including the biogenic ones (generated in the agricultural sector). According to our estimate, fossil fuel emissions were not the most significant until the mid-19th century, which dispute the narrative of the industrial origins of climate change. With these data, we observed that the relationship between emissions and economic growth described in the literature is deeply altered. To date, it was assumed that in the early stages of economic growth, more impacts were generated per unit of GDP (the 'dirty phase' of economic growth), and that from a certain point, the impacts fell ('clean phase' or 'green growth'). According to our study, the carbon intensity of the economy has fallen since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, that is, since modern economic growth began, the carbon intensity of the economy has decreased. However, total emissions have continued to grow.

A continued 'relative decoupling' process has taken place, but not a 'strong decoupling' process. In this project, we have identified 5 different periods in the relationships between emissions and economic growth. Secondly, we are in the process of calculating emissions transfers in international trade to calculate the carbon footprint. In this sense, it is usually assumed that emissions transfer was not relevant in historical perspective. According to our data, in the case of Spain, it started to be significant from the 60s due to the import of manufactured products from European countries and agricultural products from America (which generated high emissions from deforestation processes).


Scientific Production
Magazine Articles 4
Communications at national conferences 4
Communications at international conferences 6


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