Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 21 September 2010

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Citation

(2010), "Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijshe.2010.24911daf.001

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production

Article Type: Feature From: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Volume 11, Issue 4

The International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management was established to provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessments of policy relevance on the sustainable use of natural resources and in particular their environmental impacts over the full life cycle. It aims to contribute to a better understanding of how to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation. This report addresses this in two main steps. First, a review of the work that assesses the importance of observed pressures and impacts on the Earth’s natural system (usually divided into ecological health, human health, and resources provision capability).

Second, the report investigates the causation of these pressures by different economic activities, which is done via three main perspectives: industrial production, final consumption, and material use. A wealth of studies are available that helped to assess the most important causes of environmental impacts from these three perspectives. These different studies, and different perspectives points, paint a consistent overall picture:

  1. 1.

    agriculture and food consumption are identified as one of the most important drivers of environmental pressures;

  2. 2.

    the use of fossil energy carriers for heating, transportation, metal refining, and the production of manufactured goods is of comparable importance; and

  3. 3.

    the impacts related to these activities are unlikely to be reduced, but rather enhanced, in a business as usual scenario.

Finally, there are certain interlinkages between problems that may aggravate them in the future. Details can be seen at: www.uneptie.org/scp/rpanel/producsandmaterials.htm