Resource footprints and their ecosystem consequences
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScientific Reports. 2017, 7, 40743 10.1038/srep40743
A meaningful environmental impact analysis should go beyond the accounting of pressures from resource use and actually assess how resource demand affects ecosystems. The various currently available footprints of nations report the environmental pressures e.g. water use or pollutant emissions, driven by consumption. However, there have been limited attempts to assess the environmental consequences of these pressures. Ultimately, consequences, not pressures, should guide environmental policymaking. The newly released LC-Impact method demonstrates progress on the path to providing this missing link. Here we present “ecosystem impact footprints” in terms of the consequences for biodiversity and assess the differences in impact footprint results from MRIO-based pressure footprints. The new perspective reveals major changes in the relative contribution of nations to global footprints. Wealthy countries have high pressure footprints in lower-income countries but their impact footprints often have their origin in higher-income countries. This shift in perspective provides a different insight on where to focus policy responses to preserve biodiversity.