Over time, at the country level, increasing economic inequality reduces renewable energy consumption, with no evidence of reciprocal feedback.
We explore how the relationship between the intensity of urban development and the environmental intensity of social activity hinges upon the composition of the various dimensions of urban change (e.g., the extent and concentration of the built environment, the size and density of resident populations, and the availability of social resources).
Renewable energy displaces more fossil fuel energy sources when inequality is increasing, while– conversely– fewer existing fossil fuel energy sources are displaced when inequality is decreasing. Efforts aimed at increasing renewable energy consumption should adopt policies that ensure the effective displacement of fossil fuels and reduce inequality.
Between 1985 and 2011 rising income inequality led to a tighter coupling between economic growth and CO2 emissions in developed nations.