Explanatory Variables for National Socio‐Metabolic Profiles and the Question of Forecasting National Material Flows in a Globalized Economy

14 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2018

See all articles by James West

James West

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Heinz Schandl

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

Date Written: December 2018

Abstract

Identifying which socioeconomic factors can explain differences in national sociometabolic profiles, and quantifying how well they do it, is relevant to the question of whether national‐level material flows can be forecast accurately enough to inform policy. In this study, we employed panel analyses to test a wide range of socioeconomic variables with respect to their ability to explain variations in the material flows trajectories between different nations. We found that, apart from the long‐established explanatory variables of population and affluence (gross domestic product [GDP] per capita), additional variables do little to explain the remaining variation between countries. The main explanation proposed for this is that, as product supply chains are increasingly globalized, expecting national‐level material flows to closely reflect national‐level development is not appropriate. The effects of globalized trade on national material flows are profound, and come via a number of different mechanisms, discussed in the study. This implies that attempting long‐term prediction of national demand for primary materials is unlikely to be a fruitful activity, and that further efforts to refine existing models will probably not greatly improve results. Conversely, forecasting material flows at the global scale may not be unreasonable, but would be contingent on having accurate forecasts of population and GDP. The linkage of national material flows to the global economy has important implications for the efficacy of attempting to materially affect global sustainability via policy measures taken in isolation, at the national level.

Keywords: forecasting, material flow analysis (MFA), panel analysis, societal metabolism, sociometabolic transitions, STIRPAT

Suggested Citation

West, James and Schandl, Heinz, Explanatory Variables for National Socio‐Metabolic Profiles and the Question of Forecasting National Material Flows in a Globalized Economy (December 2018). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 22, Issue 6, pp. 1451-1464, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3269443 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12671

James West (Contact Author)

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) ( email )

41 Boggo Rd
Dutton Park, Queensland
Australia

Heinz Schandl

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia - CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

41 Boggo Rd
Dutton Park, Queensland
Australia

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