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What are ecological footprints?

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Presentation on theme: "What are ecological footprints?"— Presentation transcript:


2 What are ecological footprints?
Ecological footprints measure the extent to which humans are using the Earth’s bioproductive capacity Units are global hectares A hectare of land with “average bio-productive capacity (for agriculture, forest, nutrient cycling, energy production, etc.) A hectare = 2.5 acres (1 acre is about a football field between the 5 yard lines) (1 hectare is 2 complete football fields with endzones)

3 Ecological Footprint From Living Planet Report 2008, World Wildlife Fund, 2008.

4 Ecological footprints measure Earth’s carrying capacity for humans
In 2010, the biosphere had about 11.5 billion hectares of biologically productive surface (about 1/4 of the total planet) 2 billion ha of ocean (the continental shelves) 9.5 billion ha of land Current estimates indicate that humans are over-shooting the Earth’s carrying capacity by 25-50% To sustain the current carrying capacity, we could need 11/2 Earths! But, population growth and increasing development means that we are increasing our use of Earth’s carrying-capacity (bio-capacity)

5 From Living Planet Report 2008, World Wildlife Fund, 2008.


7 With respect to sustainability of the human endeavor, population growth rate and population size are only part of the picture: per capita consumption is the other Developed countries have very large ecological footprints

8 Ecological Footprints (Hectares per person)

9 Ecological Footprint by Region
From Living Planet Report 2008, World Wildlife Fund, 2008.




13 United States Ecological Footprint By Component
Biocapacity varies somewhat over time because of technology, agricultural practices (such as fertilizer use and irrigation), ecosystem degradation

14 Mexico’s Footprint by Component

15 Mexico Mexico has moved from using only 1/3 of its biocapacity in 1961 to nearly 1 ½ times its own biocapacity in 2002

16 Calculate your own ecological footprint (Can you realistically reduce your footprint to 1 planet?)
Can you reduce your ecological footprint to 1 planet??

17 So, where do we stand? There are 11.5 billion hectares of bio-productive land, and it is declining There are about 7 billion people, and increasing at about 1% per year There are currently 1 2/3 hectares per person, and most ecologists believe this is insufficient to support a significant quality of life for the average person on Earth If we continue down the path we are on, there will be less than 1 hectare per person by 2050


19 Sustainability ? Sustainability wedges are alterations to decrease the use of each of the bioproductive land groups through increased efficiency, conservation, recycling, resource switching, etc. From Living Planet Report 2008, World Wildlife Fund, 2008.

20 Envisioning Solutions
Former president Bill Clinton has argued that combating climate change doesn’t have to mean economic hardship (Clinton Initiative Topic) It could be the biggest development stimulus since World War II, creating millions of jobs and saving trillions of dollars in foreign fuel imports What are some of the strategies we have available? 9-20 20

21 Controlling Emissions is Cheap Compared to Climate Change
A 2010 study by the Pew Trust estimates the cost of lost ecological services by 2100 Costs included factors such as lost agricultural productivity from drought, damage to infrastructure from flooding and storms, lost biological productivity, health costs from heat stress, and lost water supplies The Pew report found that climate change is likely to cost between $5 trillion and $90 trillion by 2100 The Stern Review (2006) estimates a cost of only about 1% of global GDP to avoid the worst impacts of climate change Stern, NH The Economics of Climate Change. Cambridge Press. Cambridge, UK. 21

22 There Are Many Ways We Can Control Greenhouse Emissions
We can reduce dependence on coal, which produces more CO2 per energy unit than any other fuel We could institute fees for selling fossil fuels–these would help fossil fuel prices represent their many hidden costs We can invest in new technologies and energy efficiency We can institute emissions trading, by instituting a legal cap on emissions, then allowing companies to buy and sell shares of that total cap (California’s AB-32 does this) 22

23 A Wedge Approach Involves Dissecting the Problem into Stepwise Solutions
To avoid a doubling of atmospheric CO2 we need to reduce our annual carbon emissions by about 7 billion tons (=7 gigatons or GT) by 2060 Scientists have divided these emissions into “wedges”, each of which represents 1 GT of carbon emissions avoided in the year 2060 23

24 Local Initiatives Are Effective
California has greatly reduced Carbon emisions by switching all coal burning power plants to natural gas (decreased CO2 by 30%) & switching to green energy production New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark pledged that her country will be the first to be “carbon neutral” Germany has reduced its CO2 emissions at least 10 percent by switching from coal to gas and by encouraging energy efficiency throughout society Denmark now gets 20% of its electricity from windmills In the United States, more than 700 cities and 39 states have announced their own plans to combat global warming. And 450 college campuses have pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions. Some have promised to be carbon neutral by Some corporations are following suit. California has had almost no increase in per capita energy consumption since 1970 – the only state with such a record 24

25 California: A long history of investing in clean power and energy efficiency
1974 2008

26 California is a model for efficiency
Per Capita Electricity Sales (not including self-generation) ∆(2005) = 4,000kWh/yr = $400/capita United States kWh/person California

27 Energy Efficiency Strategies
Flattening out the curve – yesterday Decouple sales from revenues– eliminate disincentive Set and strengthen building and appliance standards Invest in utility energy efficiency programs Bending the curve downward– tomorrow Strengthen incentives– “Decoupling Plus” Set long term goals to achieve durable, broad-based reductions Enhance strategic planning: work backwards from goals Improve branding, messaging and marketing Invest in workforce and research and development

28 Wedge Analysis Because most of our CO2 emissions come from fossil fuel combustion, energy conservation and a switch to renewable fuels probably are the first places we should look. Two wedges (2 GT reduction in carbon emissions, or about one-quarter of what is needed to stabilize emissions) could be accomplished by doubling our average fuel economy from the expected 30 miles per gallon in 2060 to 60 mpg, and by halving the number of miles driven each year by switching to walking, biking, or using mass transit. We could save another 2 GT, simply by installing the most efficient lighting and appliances available, along with improved insulation in buildings. Another wedge would be improving power plant efficiency and reducing the energy consumption of industrial processes could reduce carbon output one wedge (1 GT). Capturing and storing CO2 released by power plants, methane wells, and other large sources could save another billion tons of carbon. Much of this CO2 could be injected into oil wells to improve crude oil production. Altogether these policy changes add up to considerably more than the 7 GT per year reduction we need to make by 2058 to avoid doubling atmospheric CO2 concentrations. If we used all 14 available options, we could reverse the present trajectory and move toward zero greenhouse emissions. Accomplishing just half of these wedges could level off our emissions. Accomplishing all of them could return to levels well below those envisioned in the Kyoto protocol 28

29 McKinsey, December 2007 U.S. GHG Abatement Mapping Initiative
In McKinsey’s “Mid-range” case, 3.0 gigatons are abated at below $50/ton CO2e, 1.1 gigatons (37% of total) comes from EE at “negative cost.” “Mid-range case brings emissions below current levels but not as far as current legislative proposals.” This is from December 2007 report, “Reducing GHG Emissions: How Much at What Cost?” John Creyts speaking at NARUC ???

30 22 States Committed to Regional Carbon Markets (w/ an additional 8 “observing”)
Source: Pew Center

31 Products and the Environment
At first glance, the relationship between products & our environment may seem clear, BUT….

32 Let’s consider the simple French fry
What are its connects to the environment? What impact does it have?

33 How did the fry get to the restaurant?
Producer Distribution Center Processing Plant Suppliers Bob’s Burger Shop Truck

34 What impact did its journey have?
Producer Distribution Center Processing Plant Suppliers Bob’s Burger Shop Truck Fossil Fuels Freezer Fertilizers Pesticides Machinery Hydropower Packaging Hydroflourocarbons Irrigation Food waste Hydroelectric dam Animal Feed Seeds

35 What impact did these impacts have?
Runoff Air Pollution Solid Waste Fossil Fuels Freezer Fertilizers Pesticides Truck Machinery Hydropower Damage To Ozone Packaging Hydroflourocarbons Irrigation Food waste Producer Distribution Center Processing Plant Suppliers Hydroelectric dam Loss of Biodiversity Animal Feed Seeds Bob’s Burger Shop

36 How might all of this affect the Earth’s systems?
Runoff Air Pollution Solid Waste Fossil Fuels Freezer Fertilizers Pesticides Truck Machinery Hydropower Damage To Ozone Packaging Hydroflourocarbons Forests Irrigation Built-up Land Grazing Land River Cropland Food waste Producer Distribution Center Processing Plant Suppliers Bob’s Burger Shop Hydroelectric dam Loss of Biodiversity Animal Feed Seeds How might all of this affect the Earth’s systems?

37 We’ve considered only the potato
Consider all the other parts of your meal the other foods the utensils the napkins the condiments the drinks… There are multiple environmental impacts involved in these as well








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