The Carbon Footprint of Material Production Rises to 23% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions
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Edgar Hertwich: Norwegian University of Science and Technology
No n9ecw, SocArXiv from Center for Open Science
The production of materials is widely recognized to be an important source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a range of policy processes now aim at enhancing material efficiency and the circular flow of materials, but our understanding of the dynamics and drivers of material-related greenhouse gas emissions is limited. Current analyses do not cover all materials or all sources of emissions, and neither address the use of the materials in the economy nor their contribution to final consumption. Here I use hypothetical extraction to quantify the GHG emissions from material production in a newly constructed time-series multiregional input-output description of the global economy, and trace the carbon footprint of materials from production through manufacturing to final consumption. GHG emission from material production increased by 120% in the period 1995-2015 to 11 Gt CO2e; rising from 15% to 23% of global emissions. China accounted for 75% of the absolute increase. Two fifths of materials in terms of GHGs are used in construction, and two fifths are used in the manufacturing of machinery, vehicles and other durable products. Policies affecting the rapidly growing capital stocks in emerging economies hence offer the highest potential emission reductions from material efficiency.
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