Socioecological Transitions and Global Change

Socioecological Transitions and Global Change

Trajectories of Social Metabolism and Land Use

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Edited by Marina Fischer-Kowalski and Helmut Haberl

This significant new book analyses fundamental changes in society-nature interaction: the socioeconomic use of materials, energy and land. The volume presents a number of case studies addressing transitions from an agrarian to an industrial socioecological regime, analysed within the materials and energy flow accounting (MEFA) framework. It is argued that by concentrating on the biophysical dimensions of change in the course of industrialization, social development issues can be explicitly linked to changes in the natural environment.

Chapter 3: The Fossil-Fuel-Powered Carbon Sink: Carbon Flows and Austria’s Energetic Metabolism in a Long-term Perspective

Karl-Heinz Erb, Helmut Haberl and Fridolin Krausmann

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental sociology


3. The fossil-fuel-powered carbon sink: carbon flows and Austria’s energetic metabolism in a long-term perspective Karl-Heinz Erb, Helmut Haberl and Fridolin Krausmann The accumulation of greenhouse gases, above all, carbon dioxide (CO2), in the atmosphere is one of the most important driving forces of global environmental change. Humans directly alter the global carbon cycle mainly through two interrelated processes: 1) land use and 2) combustion of carbon-rich materials, above all, fossil fuels. The increased carbon concentration in the atmosphere resulting from these processes, together with rising levels of other greenhouse gases, is commonly thought to induce fundamental changes in the global climate. Climate change not only affects mean temperature and precipitation but is also responsible for increased frequency and severity of extreme events such as droughts, storms or floods.1 The management of human-induced carbon flows is therefore high on the agenda of global sustainability efforts as exemplified by the negotiation processes aiming at achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that have resulted, among other things, in the Kyoto Protocol. Much research is currently being conducted to quantify these processes on global as well as regional, national or local scales to help deal with this global sustainability problem. Less attention has, however, been paid so far to the interrelations between land use and fossil-fuel-derived carbon emissions. In this chapter we will argue that these interrelations are indeed important, and that the socioeconomic metabolism approach can be useful in understanding them. Specifically, we will argue that the process...

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