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Global patterns of materials use: A socioeconomic and geophysical analysis

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  • Steinberger, Julia K.
  • Krausmann, Fridolin
  • Eisenmenger, Nina
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    Abstract

    Human use of materials is a major driver of global environmental change. The links between materials use and economic development are central to the challenge of decoupling of materials use and economic growth (dematerialization). This article presents a new global material flow dataset compiled for the year 2000, covering 175 countries, including both extraction and trade flows, and comprising four major material categories: biomass, construction minerals, fossil energy carriers and ores/industrial minerals. First, we quantify the variability and distributional inequality (Gini coefficients) in international material consumption. We then measure the influence of the drivers population, GDP, land area and climate. This analysis yields international income elasticities of material use. Finally, we examine the coupling between material flows, and between income and material productivity, measured in economic production per tonne material consumed. Material productivity is strongly coupled to income, and may thus not be suitable as an international indicator of environmental progress -- a finding which we relate to the economic inelasticity of material consumption. The results demonstrate striking differences between the material groups. Biomass is the most equitably distributed resource, economically the most inelastic, and is not correlated to any of the mineral materials. The three mineral material groups are closely coupled to each other and economic activity, indicating that the challenge of dematerializing industrial economies may require fundamental structural transformation. Our analysis provides a first systematic investigation of international differences in material use and their drivers, and thus serves as the basis for more detailed future work.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 69 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 5 (March)
    Pages: 1148-1158

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:5:p:1148-1158

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

    Related research

    Keywords: MFA Resource productivity Global material use Gini coefficient Dematerialization Income elasticity;

    References

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    1. Gonzalez-Martinez, Ana Citlalic & Schandl, Heinz, 2008. "The biophysical perspective of a middle income economy: Material flows in Mexico," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1-2), pages 317-327, December.
    2. Jacobson, Arne & Milman, Anita D. & Kammen, Daniel M., 2005. "Letting the (energy) Gini out of the bottle: Lorenz curves of cumulative electricity consumption and Gini coefficients as metrics of energy distribution and equity," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(14), pages 1825-1832, September.
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    5. Weisz, Helga & Krausmann, Fridolin & Amann, Christof & Eisenmenger, Nina & Erb, Karl-Heinz & Hubacek, Klaus & Fischer-Kowalski, Marina, 2006. "The physical economy of the European Union: Cross-country comparison and determinants of material consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 676-698, July.
    6. Behrens, Arno & Giljum, Stefan & Kovanda, Jan & Niza, Samuel, 2007. "The material basis of the global economy: Worldwide patterns of natural resource extraction and their implications for sustainable resource use policies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 444-453, December.
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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Schools of Economic Thought, Epistemology of Economics > Heterodox Approaches > Ecological Economics > Social Ecology and Social Metabolism
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    Cited by:
    1. Pothen, Frank & Schymura, Michael, 2014. "Bigger cakes with less ingredients? A comparison of material use of the world economy," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-030, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. Teixidó Figueras, Jordi & Duro Moreno, Juan Antonio, 2013. "The Building Blocks of International Ecological Footprint inequality: A Regression-Base Decomposition," Working Papers 2072/211883, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    3. Juan Antonio Duro & Jordi Teixidó-Figueras, 2012. "Ecological Footprint Inequality across countries: the role of environment intensity, income and interaction effects," Working Papers XREAP2012-17, Xarxa de Referència en Economia Aplicada (XREAP), revised Oct 2012.
    4. Éloi Laurent, 2012. "Faut-il décourager le découplage ?," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(1), pages 235-257.
    5. Wiedenhofer, Dominik & Lenzen, Manfred & Steinberger, Julia K., 2013. "Energy requirements of consumption: Urban form, climatic and socio-economic factors, rebounds and their policy implications," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 696-707.
    6. Raimund Bleischwitz, 2012. "Towards a resource policy—unleashing productivity dynamics and balancing international distortions," Mineral Economics, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 135-144, June.
    7. Marina Fischer-Kowalski & Daniel Hausknost, 2014. "Large scale societal transitions in the past," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 55, WWWforEurope.
    8. Teixidó Figueras, Jordi & Duro Moreno, Juan Antonio, 2012. "Ecological Footprint Inequality: A methodological review and some results," Working Papers 2072/203168, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    9. Jordi Teixidó-Figueras & Juan Antonio Duro, 2014. "Spatial Polarization of the Ecological Footprint distribution," Working Papers XREAP2014-02, Xarxa de Referència en Economia Aplicada (XREAP), revised Feb 2014.
    10. Duro, Juan Antonio, 2013. "Weighting vectors and international inequality changes in environmental indicators: An analysis of CO2 per capita emissions and Kaya factors," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 122-127.
    11. Manfred Lenzen & Robert A. Cummins, 2013. "Happiness versus the Environment—A Case Study of Australian Lifestyles," Challenges, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 56-74, May.

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