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How Countries' Resource Use History Matters for Human Well-being – An Investigation of Global Patterns in Cumulative Material Flows from 1950 to 2010

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  • Mayer, Andreas
  • Haas, Willi
  • Wiedenhofer, Dominik

Abstract

Global resource use has been expanding rapidly after 1950 and improved material living conditions and human well-being of large parts of the global population. We here apply a cumulative long-term perspective to gain broader insights into the material requirements of human well-being, the role of trade and the history of environmental pressures than the usual perspective of annual or most recent flows would reveal. Furthermore, we investigate environmental pressures expressed as cumulative extraction per area over the last 60years. To both ends, we utilize cumulative data on material flows on domestic material inputs (DMI) and domestic extraction (DE) for 148 countries from 1950 - to 2010 and the Social Progress Index. We find that a high level of well-being required at least 460t/cap of cumulative material inputs from 1950- to 2010. An analysis of the relation between cumulative flows and current human well-being shows statistically significant that at similar levels of cumulative material inputs, biophysical export-orientation of a country has a weak negative influence on well-being. When the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved, the scientific community and policy makers have to consider the history of development of resource use to better understand the future challenges ahead.

Suggested Citation

  • Mayer, Andreas & Haas, Willi & Wiedenhofer, Dominik, 2017. "How Countries' Resource Use History Matters for Human Well-being – An Investigation of Global Patterns in Cumulative Material Flows from 1950 to 2010," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 1-10.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:134:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.11.017
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