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The global metabolic transition: Regional patterns and trends of global material flows, 1950-2010.

Schaffartzik A, Mayer A, Gingrich S, Eisenmenger N, Loy C, Krausmann F - Glob Environ Change (2014)

Bottom Line: The expansion of the resource base required by human societies is associated with growing pressure on the environment and infringement on the habitats of other species.In order to achieve a sustainability transition, we require a better understanding of the currently ongoing metabolic transition and its potential inertia.There are, however, no signs yet that this will lead to stabilization or even a reduction of global resource use.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt, Wien, Graz, Austria ; Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt-Wien-Graz, Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070 Vienna, Austria.

ABSTRACT

Since the World War II, many economies have transitioned from an agrarian, biomass-based to an industrial, minerals-based metabolic regime. Since 1950, world population grew by factor 2.7 and global material consumption by factor 3.7-71 Gigatonnes per year in 2010. The expansion of the resource base required by human societies is associated with growing pressure on the environment and infringement on the habitats of other species. In order to achieve a sustainability transition, we require a better understanding of the currently ongoing metabolic transition and its potential inertia. In this article, we present a long-term global material flow dataset covering material extraction, trade, and consumption of 177 individual countries between 1950 and 2010. We trace patterns and trends in material flows for six major geographic and economic country groupings and world regions (Western Industrial, the (Former) Soviet Union and its allies, Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa) as well as their contribution to the emergence of a global metabolic profile during a period of rapid industrialization and globalization. Global average material use increased from 5.0 to 10.3 tons per capita and year (t/cap/a) between 1950 and 2010. Regional metabolic rates range from 4.5 t/cap/a in Sub-Saharan Africa to 14.8 t/cap/a in the Western Industrial grouping. While we can observe a stabilization of the industrial metabolic profile composed of relatively equal shares of biomass, fossil energy carriers, and construction minerals, we note differences in the degree to which other regions are gravitating toward a similar form of material use. Since 2000, Asia has overtaken the Western Industrial grouping in terms of its share in global resource use although not in terms of its per capita material consumption. We find that at a sub-global level, the roles of the world regions have changed. There are, however, no signs yet that this will lead to stabilization or even a reduction of global resource use.

No MeSH data available.


Global domestic material consumption (DMC) in tons per capita and year (t/cap/a) by material category in 2010 (left) and share in global DMC by region (right).
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fig0015: Global domestic material consumption (DMC) in tons per capita and year (t/cap/a) by material category in 2010 (left) and share in global DMC by region (right).

Mentions: The period after the World War II was characterized by unprecedented growth of the global economy and of population, by the emergence of mass production and mass consumption and, as a consequence, by a dramatic increase in the size of socio-economic metabolism: Since 1950, global material extraction and use grew 5.6-fold, much faster than population. Global physical exports grew 12-fold, faster even than GDP. Our results show that for the longer part of the last 60 years, global development of material flows was dominated by the now mature industrial countries in the Western Industrial grouping and by the planned economies of the Former Soviet Union and its allies. Up to 1990, these countries consumed over 50% of all globally extracted materials (Fig. 3) and drove the 50% increase in global per capita material use observed during this period. In spite of fundamentally different economic and political paths of industrialization, both groupings exhibit a remarkably similar trajectory of material use and metabolic profile development. However, the high levels of resource use in the planned economies of the (Former) Soviet Union and its allies did not lead to the same levels of economic wealth and material productivity as in the Western Industrial grouping (Fig. 4). While domestic material consumption stabilized at a high level in the Western Industrial grouping in the 1970s, stabilization in the (Former) Soviet Union and its allies did not occur until the 1980s and was followed by a strong decline after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Between 1980 and 2000, global metabolic rates remained stable just under 8 t/cap/a indicating that growth in material use kept pace with population growth. During the last decade, however, the global metabolic rate surged by 30%, the highest growth rate of the last 60 years and comparable to growth in global income. Although this dynamic is dominated by Asia and above all by China, it is important to note that a rise in material use after a long stretch of stagnation can also be observed in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa.


The global metabolic transition: Regional patterns and trends of global material flows, 1950-2010.

Schaffartzik A, Mayer A, Gingrich S, Eisenmenger N, Loy C, Krausmann F - Glob Environ Change (2014)

Global domestic material consumption (DMC) in tons per capita and year (t/cap/a) by material category in 2010 (left) and share in global DMC by region (right).
© Copyright Policy - CC BY-NC-ND
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4375797&req=5

fig0015: Global domestic material consumption (DMC) in tons per capita and year (t/cap/a) by material category in 2010 (left) and share in global DMC by region (right).
Mentions: The period after the World War II was characterized by unprecedented growth of the global economy and of population, by the emergence of mass production and mass consumption and, as a consequence, by a dramatic increase in the size of socio-economic metabolism: Since 1950, global material extraction and use grew 5.6-fold, much faster than population. Global physical exports grew 12-fold, faster even than GDP. Our results show that for the longer part of the last 60 years, global development of material flows was dominated by the now mature industrial countries in the Western Industrial grouping and by the planned economies of the Former Soviet Union and its allies. Up to 1990, these countries consumed over 50% of all globally extracted materials (Fig. 3) and drove the 50% increase in global per capita material use observed during this period. In spite of fundamentally different economic and political paths of industrialization, both groupings exhibit a remarkably similar trajectory of material use and metabolic profile development. However, the high levels of resource use in the planned economies of the (Former) Soviet Union and its allies did not lead to the same levels of economic wealth and material productivity as in the Western Industrial grouping (Fig. 4). While domestic material consumption stabilized at a high level in the Western Industrial grouping in the 1970s, stabilization in the (Former) Soviet Union and its allies did not occur until the 1980s and was followed by a strong decline after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Between 1980 and 2000, global metabolic rates remained stable just under 8 t/cap/a indicating that growth in material use kept pace with population growth. During the last decade, however, the global metabolic rate surged by 30%, the highest growth rate of the last 60 years and comparable to growth in global income. Although this dynamic is dominated by Asia and above all by China, it is important to note that a rise in material use after a long stretch of stagnation can also be observed in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa.

Bottom Line: The expansion of the resource base required by human societies is associated with growing pressure on the environment and infringement on the habitats of other species.In order to achieve a sustainability transition, we require a better understanding of the currently ongoing metabolic transition and its potential inertia.There are, however, no signs yet that this will lead to stabilization or even a reduction of global resource use.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt, Wien, Graz, Austria ; Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt-Wien-Graz, Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070 Vienna, Austria.

ABSTRACT

Since the World War II, many economies have transitioned from an agrarian, biomass-based to an industrial, minerals-based metabolic regime. Since 1950, world population grew by factor 2.7 and global material consumption by factor 3.7-71 Gigatonnes per year in 2010. The expansion of the resource base required by human societies is associated with growing pressure on the environment and infringement on the habitats of other species. In order to achieve a sustainability transition, we require a better understanding of the currently ongoing metabolic transition and its potential inertia. In this article, we present a long-term global material flow dataset covering material extraction, trade, and consumption of 177 individual countries between 1950 and 2010. We trace patterns and trends in material flows for six major geographic and economic country groupings and world regions (Western Industrial, the (Former) Soviet Union and its allies, Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa) as well as their contribution to the emergence of a global metabolic profile during a period of rapid industrialization and globalization. Global average material use increased from 5.0 to 10.3 tons per capita and year (t/cap/a) between 1950 and 2010. Regional metabolic rates range from 4.5 t/cap/a in Sub-Saharan Africa to 14.8 t/cap/a in the Western Industrial grouping. While we can observe a stabilization of the industrial metabolic profile composed of relatively equal shares of biomass, fossil energy carriers, and construction minerals, we note differences in the degree to which other regions are gravitating toward a similar form of material use. Since 2000, Asia has overtaken the Western Industrial grouping in terms of its share in global resource use although not in terms of its per capita material consumption. We find that at a sub-global level, the roles of the world regions have changed. There are, however, no signs yet that this will lead to stabilization or even a reduction of global resource use.

No MeSH data available.