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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 11:22 AM
Original message
Ecological Footprint versus GDP
It's intuitive that a country's Ecological Footprint should correlate with its GDP, because raising GDP generally involves placing more stress on biocapacity for both resource extraction and waste disposal.

I can't recall ever seeing a plot of Ecological Footprint against GDP, so I decided to create one. I used per capita Ecological Footprint data from the Global Footprint Network and per capita GDP from Wikipedia, and did an Excel scatter plot of the values:



The correlation is about what I'd expect. The trend is obvious, but there are lots of outliers (countries with high GDP and relatively low EF, and vice versa).

This implies two things to me. The first is that if a country's GDP goes up or down its Ecological Footprint will tend to follow, so countries that increase in prosperity tend to add to the world's ecological problems. The second, and perhaps more important for our discussions here, is that reducing a country's footprint while maintaining or increasing its GDP is going to be quite difficult.

While we all want to decrease our impact on the planet, this is yet another warning that such efforts are not cost-free.
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zeaper Donating Member (97 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 04:19 PM
Response to Original message
1. The Technology Factor-
Good work-your graph shows what anyone should know, that in regards to manufacturing, it takes money (in the form of energy or labor) to be green.

How much money it takes to be green depends on the level of your technology though. This is the part of the equation that is always changing.

Unfortunately, many on the far left fail to understand these simple facts.
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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 04:38 PM
Response to Original message
2. This is a very good idea. Now, which countries lie farthest above the line?
i.e. have the lowest EF for the highest GDP?

I suspect they may turn out to be countries which specialize in financial services, or are otherise "middlemen" economies. Not very helpful if so. But if there are societies that are doing a much better job of maxizing the GDP/EF ratio, perhaps we could learn some useful lessons from them.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 05:01 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. The top and bottom 20 for $GDP/Gha
Edited on Fri Dec-04-09 05:02 PM by GliderGuider
The top 20 in terms of dollars of GDP realized from a single ecological hectare:

Norway: $12,783.26
Singapore: $11,363.81
Gabon: $11,188.46
Trinidad: $9,684.76
Germany: $8,809.11
Netherlands: $8,808.91
Japan: $8,296.90
Swaziland: $8,212.86
Austria: $8,156.97
Jamaica: $8,151.82
Switzerland: $7,727.36
Slovenia: $7,595.85
France: $7,431.68
South Korea: $7,414.61
Sweden: $7,320.39
Oman: $6,964.44
Saudi Arabia: $6,842.50
Canada: $6,789.08
Angola: $6,609.02
Finland: $6,589.97

There's a lot of variability there - I don't see a single factor leaping out. Being a petro-state obviously helps...

The bottom 20 are all poor African states except of course for Bangladesh (second from the bottom). This indicates that there is an irreducible ecological impact of having people, even with a 0 GDP. That's what the trend line on the graph shows, since the EF is still positive when it hits the 0 GDP line.

Ghana
Chad
Sierra Leone
Burkina Faso
Madagascar
Uganda
Guinea
Mauritania
Ethiopia
Mali
Burundi
Guinea-Bissau
Democratic Republic of Congo
Central African Republic
Niger
Gambia
Somalia
Liberia
Bangladesh
Zimbabwe

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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 05:14 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Thanks for the info. Not surprised to see Scandinavia near the top.
A further possible interpretation of the bottom 20: One of the legacies of colonialism has been to offshore ecological damage from the colonizing power. Wealth was gained by stripping natural resources from the colonies and invested in infrastructure at home. Years after independence, the former colonies have not been able to establish less exploitative industries because absolutely minimal wealth was invested in their infrastructures; only that needed to sustain the extractive industries was invested. Thus they have huge unfulfilled needs for infrastructure but the profit has gone overseas and now they can't even get as much money for their crops/minerals as they used to.

Colonialism may have officially ended a half century ago, but the toxic effects linger on.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 05:59 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. Do you know how they arrive at the 'carbon footprint' in the Ecological Footprint Data?
I was surprised to see Germany's carbon footprint (for 2006) at 2.21 hectares per capita, while France's is 2.49. Given that in 2003 Germany emitted 10.2 tonnes of CO2 per capita, and France 6.0 tonnes (which seems believable since France uses a lot of nuclear power), it seems strange that Germany's footprint is smaller. The relative values may have changed a bit between 2003 and 2006, but not that much, I'd have thought.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 06:06 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Here
Edited on Fri Dec-04-09 06:11 PM by GliderGuider
Their methodology page is here:
http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/m... /

And the methodology paper is here:
http://www.footprintnetwork.org/download.php?id=508

A quote from the Carbon Footprint page:

Today, the term carbon footprint is often used as shorthand for the amount of carbon (usually in tonnes) being emitted by an activity or organization. The carbon component of the Ecological Footprint takes a slightly differing approach, translating the amount of carbon dioxide into the amount of productive land and sea area required to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. This tells us the demand on the planet that results from burning fossil fuels. Measuring it in this way offers a few key advantages.

The Footprint framework encourages us to address the problem of climate change in a way that will not simply transfer demand from one critical resource to another. It attacks the underlying causes of climate change (and of species loss, deforestation, soil erosion, water shortage and other problems) rather than the symptoms by addressing the expanding human metabolism of natures services.

When we look at carbon in isolation, the problem appears as a tragedy of the commons (we pollute our collective atmosphere in order to advance our individual/national wealth.) But the picture changes when we see the carbon problem as part of an overall resource crunch a symptom of human pressure on resources reaching a critical tipping point. The concentration of carbon in our atmosphere is the most prominent resource issue we face. But there are others as well. Access to freshwater resources, food security, forest resources, biodiversity, oil all of these are under threat. We are entering an era of peak everything.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 08:02 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Thanks - I looked at the full atlas, and I think it's to do with imports and exports
While they don't give the carbon footprint of imports and exports of a country, they do give the overall ecological footprint of imports and exports for a country, and I think that's what's make the difference.

So, for 3 European countries, we get (ecological footprint per person, in global hectares):

        Production Imports Exports Consumption
France 4.0 5.3 4.7 4.6
Germany 4.2 6.3 6.4 4.0
UK 3.5 6.0 2.4 6.1


So while Germany's ecological footprint for production is the highest of the 3, it's a net exporter (because it exports useful goods to other countries), while France imports slightly more, in footprint terms, than it exports, so ends up with a bigger consumption footprint. The UK imports far more than it exports, so it ends up the worst of the 3. I think those import and export ecological footprints will mainly be the carbon footprint of goods, so that explain why the UK's carbon footprint is the worst of those 3 (4.00, compared to 2.49 for France and 2.21 for Germany), even though its emissions (ie just from production) are low.

For comparison, Canada and the USA's figures:

        Production Imports Exports Consumption
Canada 13.4 6.4 14.0 5.8
USA 8.4 3.2 2.6 9.0


Canada comes out looking quite good, I suppose because it's a large exporter of a 'green' product - timber.

Full atlas here:

http://www.footprintnetwork.org/images/uploads/Ecologic...
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 06:20 PM
Response to Original message
7. How much effort would it be to add a 3rd variable?
looking at energy intensity might be informative.

Link to data here;
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/energyconsump...
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 07:21 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. I can't get energy intensity to add anything interesting
For the first try I just scatter-plotted footprint vs intensity. The correlation sucks.



For the next try I converted each nation's per-capita GDP into Btu using the energy intensity data in Btu per $2000(PPP). The correlation is still bad.



If you can come with an alternative approach I'll give it a try.
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 07:25 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. Let me noodle it. nt
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-05-09 01:48 AM
Response to Reply #8
13. What are you looking for?
Edited on Sat Dec-05-09 01:49 AM by kristopher
It's intuitive that a country's Ecological Footprint should correlate with its GDP, because raising GDP generally involves placing more stress on biocapacity for both resource extraction and waste disposal.

I can't recall ever seeing a plot of Ecological Footprint against GDP, so I decided to create one. I used per capita Ecological Footprint data from the Global Footprint Network and per capita GDP from Wikipedia, and did an Excel scatter plot of the values:

<snip image>

The correlation is about what I'd expect. The trend is obvious, but there are lots of outliers (countries with high GDP and relatively low EF, and vice versa).

This implies two things to me. The first is that if a country's GDP goes up or down its Ecological Footprint will tend to follow, so countries that increase in prosperity tend to add to the world's ecological problems. The second, and perhaps more important for our discussions here, is that reducing a country's footprint while maintaining or increasing its GDP is going to be quite difficult.

While we all want to decrease our impact on the planet, this is yet another warning that such efforts are not cost-free.


To confirm your intuition you plotted gdp against ef and found a trend with outliers.

The trend confirms your intuition, that "productivity" is a view of ecological footprint.

To me the next logical and possibly more important thing to explore would be the nature of the outliers as contrasts can often reveal the nature of a pattern.

To that end I like the thought of controlling for import/export. I also think the proper use of energy intensity is going to inform the discussion. While there is no strong trend when grouped all together like this, it may help to identify (label) the points on the graph by country and reduce the noise by grouping the industrial, developing and undeveloped countries and treating them separately.

This might also help to develop a clear question to go forward. Right now, I'm vaguely looking to understand the nature of the outliers.
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joshcryer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 09:53 PM
Response to Original message
11. Do you have time period data? Would be neat to see a trend.
That swath in the middle could be moving either way, imo.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-04-09 10:36 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. EF has only been around in a standardized form for 5 years.
So no reliable time series would be available yet.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-05-09 05:32 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. I think they've done the calculation for the years back to 1961
But they haven't published the full figures for each country.

In the atlas, they give the percentage change figures for each country between 1961 and 2006 (eg Table 23 for European countries); and they give a graph of the ecological footprint for the whole continent between 1961 and 2006 (Figure 27) and its constituents (cropland, carbon footprint etc.). But the details for each country in the years between 1961 and 2006 aren't there.

The figures may well be available for Hungary under this:

The spreadsheets used to calculate the national-level Ecological Footprint and biological capacity of more than 240 countries and territories from 1961-2006 are available for license from Global Footprint Network.
Academic Edition: This free license is available to anyone interested in learning more about Ecological Footprint calculations and data sets. The Academic Edition includes complete, fully functioning calculation spreadsheets for the world and for one representative nation (Hungary). Data may not be used for commercial or paid projects under this license.

Please click here to request a free Academic Edition.

Three features available in other Editions are NOT INCLUDED in this free Edition. These are the Footprint Intensity Tables, a basic Consumption Land-Use Matrix, and a detailed trade analysis section.

http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/h... /


But not for all countries unless you buy a license, it seems.

What that atlas has done is plot ecological footprint against the UN Human Development Index for countries (pages 19 and 20, figure 9). They have a bit of explanation of why they prefer using HDI rather than GDP for a measure of development. They also give the HDI figures for each country for 1980 and 2006 (same table as the change in footprint from 1961 to 2006).

Of the high HDI countries, Sweden stands out - in 2006, a total ecological footprint of 2.84 hectares per person, and an HDI of 0.96. Again, I suspect being a timber-producing country helps the figures. Many Latin America and Carribean countries do quite well - several have an HDI over 0.8, with footprints under 4 hectares.
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bananas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-05-09 02:55 PM
Response to Original message
15. The units are dollars per acre, how does that compare to real estate prices?
Edited on Sat Dec-05-09 03:00 PM by bananas
The graph shows (GDP per capita) vs (global-hectares per capita),
the slope of the line is (GDP per capita) / (global-hectares per capita)
which is in units of dollars per acre.

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-05-09 03:13 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. It's actually a rental rather than a purchase
GDP is dollars per capita per year.

So one global hectare is currently renting for $5,000 a year.
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