Estimating the human appropriation of land in Brazil by means of an Input-Output Economic Model and Ecological Footprint analysis
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonEcological Indicators. 2015, 53 78-94. 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.01.027
As we confront the current environmental crisis, determining the biophysical base (e.g., materials, energy, land, and water) of nations has become paramount. With advanced economies benefiting from the import of resource-intensive primary goods originating from poorer parts of the world, especially emerging nations, these are dilapidating their natural capital. Brazil is one of such emerging economies, whose mining and farming activities, propping up its export-led economic growth, exert great pressure on the environment. In particular, farming has been shown to have one of the world's greatest environmental impacts, especially as a consequence of land use associated with cattle ranching. Since a nation-wide evaluation of land-use types across the whole sectorial spectrum of the country's economy is still lacking, we used the most recently available Input–Output Economic Model for Brazil and the Ecological Footprint method to identify those economic sectors with the greatest potential for appropriating portions of the natural world. Our results show that: (i) the biggest chunk of Brazil's Ecological Footprint is due to its Carbon Footprint and, in particular, emissions from cattle; (ii) only a few economic sectors exhibit high Ecological Footprint values, chiefly those belonging to livestock farming and energy production based on fossil fuels; (iii) excluding the soybeans and slaughter sectors, export-oriented sectors have below-average Ecological Footprint values; and (iv) the percentage of Brazil's Ecological Footprint due to household consumption (excluding imports) is three times bigger than that attributable to exports, with sectors belonging to livestock farming contributing the most to such disparity. These results underscore that the environmental impact of the Brazilian economy can be drastically reduced by tackling the emission-intensive production processes of a few sectors only and disincentivizing the domestic consumption of a narrow range of products, especially with respect to the livestock segment.