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Economy: resource consumption has quadrupled since 1970

Economy: resource consumption has quadrupled since 1970

In Austria, the physical footprint increased by about 52 percent compared to 1990 and 2015, according to a finding recently published in the journal Nature Sustainability. study Austrian participation.

The Austrian scientist from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) served as the coordinator of the intensive research group. Heinz Chandel. Also on board was Stefan Lotter of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Created as part of the project Online Tool, where information is available on raw material consumption and physical footprint reported by all countries.

To date there is no international reporting system

A country’s footprint includes all raw materials—agricultural products, fossil fuels, mineral ores, or non-metallic minerals—that the country consumes. It also takes into account the source of the resource. So, if the car is made in Japan and then exported to Australia, it will be included in the Australian footprint, someone says Broadcasting CSIRO and the University of Sydney. Unfortunately, there is still no international system in which data on material fingerprints are recorded.

However, there are various political commitments to reduce the consumption of raw materials as much as possible in the future. In the European Union, for example, there has recently been an increased thinking in the direction of the circular economy, which relates to the use of raw materials as long as possible and in various products over and over again. This would make the economy less dependent on materials that are constantly being mined or imported and would be more sustainable.

Important for climate protection

“The size of our physical footprint has an impact on climate crisis containment measures, on biodiversity, as well as on garbage generation and environmental pollution,” Chandel said. The researcher asserts that there can be climate neutrality only if, for example, materials in construction or transportation associated with high carbon dioxide emissions are conserved. In the end, it is about reaching a state where the prosperity of society and economic development are no longer strongly driven by new raw materials. The extent to which countries have been able to separate these aspects can be seen in the online expert tool.

In their work, the researchers write that the doubling of resource consumption from the 1970s to 2019 can be attributed primarily to rapidly developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In many middle-income countries, resource consumption is rapidly catching up with the level of traditional industrial countries. Large infrastructure projects are an important driver.

The richest countries with the highest fingerprint

Unsurprisingly, countries with high per capita incomes also have the highest footprint. This is for example the United States of America, Great Britain or Australia. The latter country increased its physical footprint by more than 73 percent from 1990 to 2015, according to online analysis. In China, the value increased by a whopping 434%. In Germany, on the other hand, the increase compared to 1990 and 2015 was just under twelve percent.

Comparing the country’s effects with the respective GDP shows a relative separation of economic development from resource consumption in some countries. This was not the case in the United Arab Emirates, for example, where the footprint was nearly seven times higher in 2015 than it was in 1990. Based on current trends, there are no indications that there will be a real separation of workers in the coming decades. .