5 years ago

Green economies around the world? - Sustainable Europe ...

Green economies around the world? - Sustainable Europe ...

XXX 4 53 Material use

XXX 4 53 Material use and the environment Material use and the environment at a glance __________________ 54 Agriculture and water scarcity _______________________________ 56 Minerals, sealed land and CO 2 emissions _____________________ 58 Fossil fuels use and climate change ___________________________ 60 Metal ores and unused material extraction _____________________ 62 XXX 54

material use and the environment at a glance The world economy uses around 250 different raw materials. The extraction and use of almost all of them increased over the past 30 years, in some cases by a factor of 5 or more. While all of them have their own unique impact on nature per tonne, collectively, they contribute to the rising pressures on the planet’s belaboured ecosytems. Some materials such as heavy metals are consumed in lower quantities, but pollute soils, air and water. Other materials, such as construction minerals, are much less harmful per tonne, but their environmental impact stems from the huge absolute amounts being used in the global economy. Growth in global extraction and use of selected materials 1980 – 2008 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 -1,000 0 million tonnes +155 % + 76 % +185 % +56 % +73 % +108 % +136 % +16 % Bananas Fish Soybeans Wheat Rice Maise Sugar Cane Timber Biomass-based materials comprise products from agriculture, forestry and fi shery. Conventional monoculture production puts pressure on the environment in the form of soil degradation and ground and surface water pollution ( e.g. eutrophication ) due to the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Furthermore, water scarcity due to high water exploitation for irrigation is a problem in an increasing number of countries. Clearing primary forests to expand agricultural areas or transforming them into forestry monocultures are another major pressure, with negative effects on ecosystems, leading to biodiversity loss and displacements of endangered species. +337 % +369 % - 81 % +44 % +50 % +70 % +171 % +187 % Asphalt Feldspar Silica sand Phosphates Salt Igneous rock Limestone Sand and gravel Industrial and construction minerals such as salt, sands, gravel and limestone are typical examples of bulk fl ows with low environmental impacts per tonne. However, global use of these minerals increased signifi cantly over the past three decades to meet the demand for creating and maintaining infrastructure such as buildings and roads. On the one hand, the environmental impact stems from the highly energy and CO -intensive production of construction 2 materials such as cement. On the other hand, construction can lead to a disruption of the landscape due to land sealing, urban sprawl and negative impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity. - 6 % +114 % +20 % +103 % Brown coal Gas Hard coal Oil Signifi cant impacts on the environment by using fossil fuels are not only a consequence of a high impact per tonne ( e.g. oil spills ), but also stem from the rapidly increasing absolute levels of use. Bulky fl ows from coal and oil producing countries to industrialised countries and emerging economies lead to growing environmental problems during extraction. The environmental consequences of oil and gas extraction in river deltas, rain forests or the open sea are well known. The main consequence of fossil fuel combustion is the emission of greenhouse gases, the main driver for global climate change. +935 % +299 % +131 % +174 % +59 % million tonnes +119 % Cobalt Rare earths Bauxite Gold Copper Iron 55 56 20,000 19,000 18,000 17,000 16,000 15,000 14,000 13,000 12,000 11,000 10,000 9,000 8,000 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 0 -1,000 Mining and processing of metal ores as well as the use and disposal of refi ned metals have considerable impacts on the environment. In metal mining, large amounts of materials need to be removed in order to get access to the metal deposits. This so-called “ unused extraction ” contributes to land use changes and ecosystem disruption. Large amounts of metal particles are discharged into soils and water bodies during the mining and refi ning processes. In addition, gases emitted during the various stages of refi ning metal have a severe impact. In particular, metal waste from discarded manufactured products are a main source of global metal soil pollution.

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