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The physical dimension of international trade, part 2: Indirect global resource flows between 1962 and 2005


  • Dittrich, Monika
  • Bringezu, Stefan
  • Schütz, Helmut


Global trade is increasingly being challenged by observations of growing burden shifting, in particular of environmental problems. This paper presents the first worldwide calculations of shifted burden based on material flow indicators, in particular direct and indirect physical trade balances. This study covers the period between 1962 and 2005 and includes between 82 and 173 countries per year. The results show that indirect trade flow volumes have increased to around 41billion tonnes in 2005. The traded resources with the highest share of associated indirect flows are iron, hard coal, copper, tin and increasingly palm oil. Regarding the burden balance between regions, Europe is the biggest shifter whereas Australia and Latin America are the largest takers of environmental burden due to resource extraction. To evaluate the findings from a global perspective, the results are analysed in terms of resource flow induced environmental pressure related to a country's land area in terms of total and per capita area. Resource endowment and population density seem to be more relevant in determining the physical trade balance, including indirect flows, than income level.

Suggested Citation

  • Dittrich, Monika & Bringezu, Stefan & Schütz, Helmut, 2012. "The physical dimension of international trade, part 2: Indirect global resource flows between 1962 and 2005," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 32-43.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:79:y:2012:i:c:p:32-43
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.04.014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Machado, Giovani & Schaeffer, Roberto & Worrell, Ernst, 2001. "Energy and carbon embodied in the international trade of Brazil: an input-output approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 409-424, December.
    2. Ritthoff, Michael & Rohn, Holger & Liedtke, Christa, 2002. "Calculating MIPS: Resource productivity of products and services," Wuppertal Spezial, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, volume 27, number 27e.
    3. Dittrich, Monika & Bringezu, Stefan, 2010. "The physical dimension of international trade: Part 1: Direct global flows between 1962 and 2005," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1838-1847, July.
    4. Wiedmann, Thomas & Lenzen, Manfred & Turner, Karen & Barrett, John, 2007. "Examining the global environmental impact of regional consumption activities -- Part 2: Review of input-output models for the assessment of environmental impacts embodied in trade," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 15-26, February.
    5. Muradian, Roldan & O'Connor, Martin & Martinez-Alier, Joan, 2002. "Embodied pollution in trade: estimating the 'environmental load displacement' of industrialised countries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 51-67, April.
    6. Jiahua Pan & Jonathan Phillips & Ying Chen, 2008. "China's balance of emissions embodied in trade: approaches to measurement and allocating international responsibility," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 354-376, Summer.
    7. Andersson, Jan Otto & Lindroth, Mattias, 2001. "Ecologically unsustainable trade," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 113-122, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bringezu, Stefan, 2015. "On the mechanism and effects of innovation: Search for safety and independence of resource constraints expands the safe operating range," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 387-400.
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:140:y:2017:i:c:p:265-274 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Teixidó-Figueras, J. & Duro, J.A., 2014. "Spatial Polarization of the Ecological Footprint Distribution," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 93-106.
    4. repec:spr:soinre:v:133:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1401-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Eisenmenger, Nina & Wiedenhofer, Dominik & Schaffartzik, Anke & Giljum, Stefan & Bruckner, Martin & Schandl, Heinz & Wiedmann, Thomas O. & Lenzen, Manfred & Tukker, Arnold & Koning, Arjan, 2016. "Consumption-based material flow indicators — Comparing six ways of calculating the Austrian raw material consumption providing six results," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 177-186.
    6. Soto, David & Infante-Amate, Juan & Guzmán, Gloria I. & Cid, Antonio & Aguilera, Eduardo & García, Roberto & González de Molina, Manuel, 2016. "The social metabolism of biomass in Spain, 1900–2008: From food to feed-oriented changes in the agro-ecosystems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 130-138.
    7. Latorre, Sara & Farrell, Katharine N. & Martínez-Alier, Joan, 2015. "The commodification of nature and socio-environmental resistance in Ecuador: An inventory of accumulation by dispossession cases, 1980–2013," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 58-69.
    8. Lutter, Stephan & Giljum, Stefan & Bruckner, Martin, 2016. "A review and comparative assessment of existing approaches to calculate material footprints," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 1-10.


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