Teleconnecting human activities to environmental impacts at multiple spatial scales

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 9:30 AM
229A (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Klaus Hubacek, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD

Globalization increases the interconnectedness of people and places around the world. In a connected world, goods and services consumed in one country are often produced in other countries and exchanged via international trade. Thus, local consumption, in particular in urban areas, is increasingly met by global supply chains oftentimes involving large geographical distances and leading to global environmental change, such as pollution, climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation and other land conversions, all impacting on important ecosystem services. Inequalities in consumption get translated into environmental terms: People in rich countries maintain higher incomes and more resource-intensive lifestyles, while people in poorer countries are often bearing the environmental consequences. To account for environmental impacts of consumption and distribution of wealth a global supply and value chain analysis is needed. We use the concept of teleconnections to describe the remote (spatial) linkages between local consumption embedded in its local context and remote environmental impacts. Globally distributed production activities are key drivers behind environmental change imposing stress on ecosystems across a spatial scale.

Modeling environmental impacts of human actions (or environmental footprinting) has made good progress over the last two decades in analyzing environmental pressures from consumption activities that arise throughout the supply chain. However, it has only rather recently started to appreciate the importance of the spatial dimension as a new research frontier for environmental footprinting. This paper will show how economic trade models and environmental models and data can be combined to trace flows of goods and services, pollution and environmental resources throughout global supply chains and some of the research frontiers in linking human activities to environmental impacts across scales.