TELE-CONNECTING CONSUMPTION OF NATURAL RESOURCE USE AND ENVIORNMENTAL IMPACTS THROUGH (GLOBAL) SUPPLY CHAINS: APPLICATIONS OF THE MULTI-REGIONAL INPUT-OUTPUT MODEL
White, David J.
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Natural resources are necessary inputs in production systems. In today’s globalized world, local resource consumption can impact ecosystems on a global scale. With commodities and services being traded across economic and ecosystem boundaries, natural resources are appropriated and exchanged. The finite nature of natural resources, uneven distribution in space and time, and global trends in consumption are impacting resource availability. The overuse of resources can have severe consequences on ecosystems; further degrading quality and functioning. The rise and expansion of global supply chains, with ever-increasing exchanges of intermediate goods, deepens the complexity of assessing the negative environmental impacts of trade externalities and globalization. To understand the consequences of natural resource consumption in international trade, we incorporate environmental indicators in an across-scale approach to examine and describe the spatial linkages between local consumption and environmental impacts in a meaningful and quantitative method. Applying the tele-connections concept, this research utilizes the environmentally-extended multi-regional input-output model to quantify, track, and evaluate the hidden ‘virtual’ flows of natural resources and environmental impacts across economic supply chains. This research spatially identifies and traces the major trade routes conveying environmental pressures and impacts on local ecosystems on regions of production from distant centers of consumption. Our analysis demonstrates that resource consumption and scarcity transpire differently across system boundaries with variable resource endowments. Therefore, incorporating environmental relevance across scale is critical to understanding resource consumption and scarcity. The across scale perspective provides not only novel insight into the environmental pressures facing systems, but reveals ‘hotspots’ of environmental impacts. Numerous footprint and virtual trade studies have been conducted for a particular country, region, or globally, but with little attention to the tele-connection of consumption of natural resource and environmental impacts across scale in multiple places. This research demonstrates that incorporating relevant environmental indicators and a multi-scaled approach enhances the assessment of humanity’s resource consumption and impacts on the environment.