From new cars to email messages, from bananas to home-grown tomatoes: everything we buy, produce or consume has an environmental cost that has come to be called a "footprint". And if you want to be a good global citizen, the Internet offers a range of tools that you can use to understand just how big your footprint is or what your existing lifestyle is doing to the planet.
But what if you are a government decision maker and want know the impact of different policies on the environment? That's an infinitely more difficult calculation to make.
Now, as global policymakers meet in Brazil at the UN's Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, a group of European researchers has developed a new online "virtual crystal ball" that can help planners envision a greener future and help them get there.
Easy to understand graphics
The online tool is called EUREAPA (for EU Resource and Energy Analysis Programme Application), and has been produced by a coalition of European researchers, including from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. The EUREAPA tool can produce graphics that show how national consumption patterns affect land and water use, along with the production of greenhouse gases.
These three options called the carbon footprint, the ecological footprint and the water footprint give policy makers a chance to look at environmental pressures from three different perspectives so they can avoid shifting environmental impacts from one class to another.
Using the footprint perspective can also help policy makers avoid shifting environmental problems from one region to another for example, by moving production sites into regions with less stringent environmental regulations, says Jan Weinzettel, a postdoctoral researcher at NTNU who has been involved in the tool development during the last two years. While moving production sites to other parts of the globe clearly im
|Contact: Edgar Hertwich|
Norwegian University of Science and Technology