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Australia’s Resource Use Trajectories


  • Heinz Schandl
  • Franzi Poldy
  • Graham M Turner
  • Thomas G Measham
  • Daniel Walker
  • Nina Eisenmenger

    () (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Australia)


Australia’s export oriented large natural resources sectors of agriculture and mining, the ways in which large scale services such as nutrition, water, housing, transport and mobility, and energy are organized, as well as the consumption patterns of Australia’s wealthy urban households, create a unique pattern of overall resource use in Australia. In an attempt to contribute to a new environmental information system compatible with economic accounts, we represent Australia’s resource use by employing standard biophysical indicators for resource use developed within the OECD context. We are looking at the last three decades of resource use and the economic, social and environmental implications. We also discuss scenarios of future resource use patterns based on a stocks and flows model of the Australian economy. We argue that current extractive economic patterns have contributed to the recent economic boom in Australia but will eventually lead to negative social and environmental outcomes. While there is currently little evidence of political support for changing the economic focus on export-oriented agriculture and mining industries, there is significant potential for improvements in socio-technological systems, and room for more sustainable household consumption.

Suggested Citation

  • Heinz Schandl & Franzi Poldy & Graham M Turner & Thomas G Measham & Daniel Walker & Nina Eisenmenger, 2008. "Australia’s Resource Use Trajectories," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2008-08, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
  • Handle: RePEc:cse:wpaper:2008-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schandl, Heinz & Schulz, Niels, 2002. "Changes in the United Kingdom's natural relations in terms of society's metabolism and land-use from 1850 to the present day," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 203-221, May.
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    4. 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.
    5. Pannell, David J. & Ewing, Michael A., 2006. "Managing secondary dryland salinity: Options and challenges," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 80(1-3), pages 41-56, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. John Foster & Liam Wagner & Liam Byrnes, 2014. "A Review of Distributed Generation for Rural and Remote Area Electrification," Energy Economics and Management Group Working Papers 3-2014, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
    2. Heinz Schandl & Graham M Turner, 2008. "The Dematerialization Potential of the Australian Economy," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2008-13, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
    3. Söderholm, Patrik & Svahn, Nanna, 2015. "Mining, regional development and benefit-sharing in developed countries," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 78-91.
    4. Reeson, Andrew & Measham, Thomas G. & Hosking, Karin, 2012. "Mining activity, income inequality and gender in regional Australia," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 56(2), June.
    5. Schaffartzik, Anke & Mayer, Andreas & Eisenmenger, Nina & Krausmann, Fridolin, 2016. "Global patterns of metal extractivism, 1950–2010: Providing the bones for the industrial society's skeleton," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 101-110.
    6. Helga Weisz & Heinz Schandl, 2008. "Materials Use Across World Regions," Journal of Industrial Ecology, Yale University, vol. 12(5-6), pages 629-636, October.
    7. Fleming, David A. & Measham, Thomas G., 2014. "Local job multipliers of mining," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 9-15.
    8. Tan, Hao & Sun, Aijun & Lau, Henry, 2013. "CO2 embodiment in China–Australia trade: The drivers and implications," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1212-1220.
    9. Steinberger, Julia K. & Krausmann, Fridolin & Eisenmenger, Nina, 2010. "Global patterns of materials use: A socioeconomic and geophysical analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 1148-1158, March.

    More about this item


    natural resources; resource use patterns and dynamics; physical accounting; resource productivity; social and environmental impacts of resource use; Australia;

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics
    • N57 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Africa; Oceania

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