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Future scenarios for energy consumption and carbon emissions due to demographic transitions in Chinese households

Abstract

Population dynamics has been acknowledged as a key concern for projecting future emissions, partly because of the huge uncertainties related to human behaviour. However, the heterogeneous shifts of human behaviour in the process of demographic transition are not well explored when scrutinizing the impacts of population dynamics on carbon emissions. Here, we expand the existing population–economy–environment analytical structure to address the above limitations by representing the trend of demographic transitions to small-family and ageing society. We specifically accommodate for inter- and intra-life-stage variations in time allocation and consumption in the population rather than assuming a representative household, and take a less developed province, Sichuan, in China as the empirical context. Our results show that the demographic shift to small and ageing households will boost energy consumption and carbon emissions, driven by the joint variations in time-use and consumption patterns. Furthermore, biased pictures of changing emissions will emerge if the time effect is disregarded.

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Fig. 1: Analytical mechanism for demographic transition, lifestyle and environmental outputs.
Fig. 2: Chinese time-use pattern and consumption pattern.
Fig. 3: Four scenarios of future society in Sichuan.
Fig. 4: Structure of energy-demand and CO2-emissions change compared with S1 for Sichuan.
Fig. 5: Decomposition of CO2 emissions increase in scenario S4 in contrast to the base year 2009 for Sichuan.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the programme ‘Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Fellowship for Foreign Researchers’. The authors acknowledge financial support received through China’s National Key R&D Program (2016YFA0602603), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 71603020, no. 71521002 and no. 71642004). We also acknowledge the support of the National Bureau of Statistics China in sharing the 2008 time-use data with us, and acknowledge the support of the Joint Development Program of Beijing Municipal Commission of Education. We thank B. van Ruijven for his kind help in providing information for the Population–Environment–Technology (PET) model.

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B.Y. designed the research and performed the analysis. Y.M. conceived the paper. Y.-M.W. and G.K. contributed to the methodology improvement and scenario design. All authors contributed to writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Biying Yu or Yi-Ming Wei.

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Supplementary Tables 1–5, Supplementary Figures 1–5, Supplementary Note 1 and Supplementary References

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Yu, B., Wei, YM., Kei, G. et al. Future scenarios for energy consumption and carbon emissions due to demographic transitions in Chinese households. Nat Energy 3, 109–118 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-017-0053-4

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