Tackling contemporary environmental problems means connecting their analysis with a deeper understanding of producer and consumer influence within the global economy. However, linking consumption decisions to environmental impacts is incredibly challenging. Supply chains are complex, globalised, and difficult to trace.
A new study, published in Global Environmental Change, by Senior Researcher Dr Oliver Taherzadeh of the Supply Chain Project sought to explore how the interconnected world economy influences national water, energy and land insecurity. The study combined macroeconomic and environmental data for 189 countries and nearly 15000 sectors within the global economy.
By tracing global supply chains and linking national consumption to its source the study found most countries were highly exposed to over-exploited, insecure, and degraded water, energy, and land resources. However, countries exhibited greater exposure to these risks beyond their borders, via international trade (≈80–90%). The study calls for changes to the scale and source of consumed goods and services, both in individual countries and globally.
The study, which Dr Taherzadeh undertook as a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, uses datasets and modelling techniques currently under development within the Supply Chain Project at RIHN, led by Professor Keiichiro Kanemoto. One of the project’s current goals is to downscale risk-based analysis, similar to that covered within this study, in order to identify the key products, socio-economic group and localities which impose the greatest burden on environmental systems, including climate, water, energy, land, and biodiversity.
By making insights from their analysis available online in the form of an impact appraisal and decision support tool, members of Supply Chain Project hope to support responsible decision making towards a sustainable world economy.
Oliver Taherzadeh et al. ‘Water, energy and land insecurity in global supply chains.’
Global Environmental Change (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102158
Press release from the University of Cambridge: