Patricia Romero Lankao

Free Power Secrets

Making Your Own Fuel

Get Instant Access

The distribution of carbon on the Earth has changed dramatically over the past 300 years (Houghton and Skole 1990; Ayres et al. 1994). Humans have exerted a strong influence on these transformations through diverse, interacting mechanisms, including agriculture, forestry, urbanization, and industrialization. These impacts on the carbon cycle occurred in the context of dynamic, demographic, and technological trends, institutional settings, and politics. Societies have been affected by these transformations (vulnerability), and they have also responded in ways that have the potential to feed back on the carbon cycle. These issues have been addressed in the literature in notions like adaptation and mitigation (Kelly and Adger 2000).

Different theories may be used to explain such transformations of the carbon cycle. Some, such as neoclassical or neoinstitutional, offer pathways of single-factor causation (Ostrom 1990). Others look for more complex explanations, such as direct causes, underlying forces (Turner et al. 1990; Geist and Lambin 2001), or the world economy approach (Braudel 1984). Here, I explore the key role of the history and world economy approaches for understanding patterns of change in the carbon cycle, and ways that carbon-relevant societal actions (land changes and energy use) manifest different regional and temporal dynamics. I focus on three regional development patterns with different carbon cycle consequences. These development patterns are core, rim, and peripheral.

Throughout history the interaction among urbanization, agriculture, and forestry has been complex and dynamic. Both regional and global perspectives can be used to identify carbon-relevant patterns of causation. The global perspective facilitates finding features common to all development patterns, while the regional view supports the exploration of key differences. The relationships among urbanization, agriculture, and forestry, which cannot be isolated from the energy sector, must be considered within the context of a world economy in which they are embedded. A world economy is "an eco nomically autonomous section of the planet able to provide for most of its own needs, a section to which its internal link and exchanges give a certain organic unity" (Braudel 1984: 22).

Key Historical Trends

Throughout their history, humans have transformed the carbon cycle through agriculture, forestry, trade, urbanization, and energy use in industry and transportation. In the past two centuries these processes have become so far-reaching that they have profoundly transformed the carbon cycle and related processes, including climate, water, and nutrient cycles. From 1700 to 1920, the area of croplands grew by 648 X 106 hectares (ha). In the next 60 years, it increased by 588 X 106 ha—an increase of 91 percent in 27 percent of the time. The world's forests and woodlands decreased by 537 X 106 ha between 1700 and 1920 and by 625 X 106 from 1920 to 1980 (Richards 1990: Table 10-1). These and related activities (biomass burning, intensification of livestock husbandry) are major contributors to the changes in carbon stored in vegetation and soils and the distribution of carbon between land and atmosphere (Houghton and Skole 1990).

Until the 1950s urbanization was too low and the number of large cities too small for cities to have other than local impacts on climate, the hydrological cycle, agricultural land use, and exploitation of natural resources. Since 1950 urbanization has become a major global factor, a phenomenon with important local, regional, national, and international impacts. Effects of urbanization on land cover are globally minor because urban areas comprise less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface (Lambin et al. 2001). On the other hand, urbanization's local effects and "ecological footprints"1 on climate, air, land cover, economic activities, and quality of life now extend far into surrounding areas. In addition, large cities are now so numerous that their impact has become truly global. Before the middle of the 20th century, the largest and demographically most dynamic urban agglomerations like London, New York, and Tokyo were mostly in developed countries. Since 1990 this pattern has reversed, with most megacities now situated in developing countries (UNEP 2002).

The use of energy is an integral part of household activities, urban agglomerations, agriculture, and transportation. Biomass (plant matter) was the most important fuel until the middle of the 19th century. Since then, biomass has accounted for a decreasing share of the world's energy. It is now used mainly for domestic necessities in developing countries. In developed countries, coal and later oil and natural gas increased their share of international energy demand (Williams 1994). At least since the 15 th century, forestry, agriculture, urbanization, and energy use have been interrelated with and driven by "world economies." It is useful to think of world economies as centered in a number of kinds of world cities, including centers of industrialization (London, New York, Berlin), gateway cities (Buenos Aires, Cairo, San Francisco, and Sydney), points of colonial penetration (La Paz, Lima), and centers of national power within developing countries (Manila, Mexico City). Such cities have experienced waves of carbon-relevant urbanization and industrialization. Among the waves with tangent impacts on the carbon cycle are the smokestack factories of the heavy-machinery phase in London (1850-1940) and the urban sprawl of Los Angeles and other big cities of the mass-production era (1930-1980).

World economies comprise three different regions: core, rim, and peripheral. In core regions within and surrounding world cities, land use changes and carbon releases to the atmosphere have been massive. Middle or rim areas are fairly developed regions that maintain tight trade interchanges with core areas and have similar carbon-relevant processes. There may also be a huge periphery. Sometimes these are located within a nation's boundary. In other cases, they are part of overseas empires or economic zones, representing "backwardness, archaism, and exploitation by others" (Braudel 1984: 39). Peripheries have functioned as resource-exporting hinterlands, linked to and environmentally affected by core regions through trade and political domination aimed at finding markets for industrialized goods, supplying heartlands with raw commodities (Galeano 1973; Ponting 1990), and, in recent decades, offering opportunities for relocation of activities perceived as environmentally destructive to the cores.

Linkages among core regions, rims, and peripheries are the essence of diverse regional pathways of development. Regional development has five key phases (Gruebel 1994; Lo 1994). These phases overlap because their technological paradigms need about 20 years to evolve from one to the other.

The first phase (1750-1820) was dominated by the textile, coal, and iron industries and led by England, plus some regions in Belgium and France. The processes leading to this phase included technical (factories, combinations of coke and stationary steam engines, wrought iron) and social (breakdown of medieval structures) aspects. Processes taking place in the peripheries driven by colonialism, namely, increasing extraction of timber and minerals, creation of croplands and plantations, and innovations in agriculture and animal husbandry, were also important drivers of this phase. Modifications in land cover were globally the main proximate cause of changes in the carbon cycle because plant matter was the main source of energy (Houghton and Skole 1990).

The second phase, also known as the steam era (1800-1870), saw the emergence of industrialization as a pervasive and global principle of economic growth, dominated by mobile steam power and inland navigation. England still led industrialization, but it soon spread to Belgium, France, Germany, and the United States. Key innovations appeared, including steel, railways, telegraphs, city gas- and coal-based chemical industry. Hinterland regions continued to supply raw materials, and they became widening markets for the products of core and middle regions. The bulk of the trade, however, remained within each realm (Gruebel 1994). Land use persisted as the main cause of changes in the carbon cycle (Houghton and Skole 1990).

The heavy engineering epoch (1850-1940), the most intensive period of industri alization for core regions, saw the emergence of oil, petrochemicals, synthetics, telephone, radio, electricity, and agricultural innovations. Economic expansion contrasted with the social and political inability to provide equitable standards of living, resulting in social conflicts. Production of steel, other primary commodities, and capital equipment were at the core of the international expansion of industrial and urban infrastructure (Ponting 1990). London and New York rose as world cities for key commodity markets, banking, and capital finance. Railway networks and ocean steamships linked distant regions through international trade dominated by industrialized core areas in Germany and the United States, and, to a lesser extent, by the emerging regions of Japan and Russia. Imperialism and colonialism were the political counterparts of these processes. Peripheries were granted access to markets in core regions in return for raw materials and food. Emissions of carbon from the combustion of fossil fuels became an important cause of changes in the carbon cycle, rivaling emissions from land use (Houghton and Skole 1990).

During the mass production and consumption era (1930-1980), the most intensive human transformation of the carbon cycle took place. Land use, land cover, and energy use increased rapidly with intensification of industrial activities, expansion of agricultural areas, and reduction of forests. Emissions from fossil fuels became by far the most important source of carbon releases. Transformations that might be called Fordism, Tay-lorism, and Welfare State led to consolidation of chemical industries, massive production of industrial commodities and consumer products such as plastics and petrochemicals, internal combustion engines, automobiles, agrochemical inputs, farm machinery, and consumer durables. New transport and communication systems facilitated cultural and information exchanges. They also facilitated the worldwide extension of industrialization. Nevertheless, the core regions continued to dominate most industrial output and trade. Only a few former rims (Austria, Canada, Japan, Scandinavia, and Switzerland) joined the heartlands. The rest remained in rim and periphery areas, depending heavily on exports of raw materials, and/or production of industrial commodities such as textiles and durables that had gradually shifted away from the core regions.

The current phase, not consolidated yet (1980-?), is characterized by the emergence of most industrialized countries, members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as core regions and new partners as rims. Regional economic blocs, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, are features of the current world economy led by the United States, Germany, and Japan, respectively. Computers, electronics, telecommunications, services, biotechnology, new materials, and to a lesser degree environmental technologies seem to be the main sources of transformation. These transformations are driven by new production systems (just-in-time, total quality control) and widely distributed production. Key trends include economic deregulation, liberalization, privatization, and new arenas of power with important differences between countries and regions. For example, between 1930 and 1980, many peripheries financed industrialization through export earnings from primary commodities, which allowed them to join the rims. Meanwhile, mass production was extended from core regions to rims, including parts of Brazil and Mexico (Marston et al. 2002). It is not yet clear which sources of energy will substitute for petroleum (Caldeira et al., Chapter 5, this volume). Genetic resources, biodiversity, water, soil, and "nature" may emerge as key "commodities."

Current Relevant Pathways of Regional Development

The current world system has at least three patterns of regional development (Marston et al. 2002). The three share important characteristics, namely increased population in cities, fragmentation of surrounding landscapes, and agricultural intensification. On the other hand, some features of urbanization, agriculture, forestry, and energy are unique to each region.

The first pathway, centered on dominant world cities, takes place in core regions (Figures 19.1, 19.2, and 19.3). These core regions share increases in international trade, production, consumption, and carbon emissions.2 World cities act as centers of technological innovation and international, managerial, and financial functions, as well as hubs of networks for less important urban centers (Lo 1994). Urban areas of the core regions experience lower population growth rates than those in rim or peripheral areas (Figure 19.4). Management policies and strategies have ensured investments in infrastructure, urban planning, and environmental issues. Local government expenditures tend to be between 15 and 40 times higher than in peripheral areas (Figure 19.5). The question is whether this might allow for development policies with positive carbon consequences reflecting capacity to promote mitigation and cope with the social implications of changes in the carbon cycle (Lo 1994; UNEP 2002).

Major cities in developed core and rim regions fall into two major categories with respect to carbon-relevant indicators such as urban land use, planning, and transport. One category is high-density agglomerations represented by Hamburg, London, Paris, Singapore, Stockholm, and Tokyo. Although recently experiencing some urban sprawl, they tend to have mixed land use, improved public transport, relatively low auto dependence, and enhanced viability of walking and cycling (Kenworthy and Laube 1996; UNEP 2002). The other category is low-density cities such as Canberra, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, which are sprawled, heavily zoned, and segregated. In these cities, dependence on autos is high and support for walking and cycling is low (Kenworthy and Laube 1996). Low-density cities tend to have more carbon-related local and global impacts than their high-density counterparts, including destruction of prime farming land and natural landscapes, photochemical smog, noise, and emissions of greenhouse gases.

North America, Western Europe, and Australia and New Zealand have 481, 473,


Si 6,000,000



1999 1995 1990 1985 1980


Figure 19.1. Share of world's GDP by region (1980-1999). (UNEP 2002)


Primary energy consumption (Quadrillion [1015] BT

ro .u ct> a> o ro ooooooo

"n-B m ITI




1 n-» n~B r-™

Jf f ^ J? <0° ^

Figure 19.2. Primary energy consumption by region (1991, 1995, and 2000). (Energy Information Administration 2002)

Figure 19.3. Carbon dioxide emissions by region (1991, 1995, and 2000). (Energy Information Administration 2002)

Metre U 1


iff T à- T

Figure 19.4. Demographic indicators (1993-1998) (UN-Habitat 2001).

Figure 19.5. Local governmental revenue and expenditures (1998). (UN-Habitat 2001)

and 419 cars per thousand people, respectively (Figure 19.6), well above the levels in the rest of the world. This could support the thesis that there is an inevitable relationship between rising incomes and increasing car use, or in more general terms that affluence, consumption, and environmental impact are intrinsically linked. But urbanization patterns in Western Europe and some Asian cities suggest that such a connection is not

Asia & Pacific-

Latin America & Caribbean

Latin America & Caribbean






Figure 19.7. Annual net carbon flux to the atmosphere from land use change (1960— 1990). Values are in millions of tons C (UNEP 2002).

North America









Figure 19.7. Annual net carbon flux to the atmosphere from land use change (1960— 1990). Values are in millions of tons C (UNEP 2002).

inevitable. Other factors such as urban planning policies that favor alternatives to auto transport, good-quality transit systems, and environmental awareness and attitudes may be key drivers of these differences.

Notwithstanding these dissimilarities, both kinds of cities share a critical feature. They enjoy high standards of living, with ecological footprints in the air, land, water, and natural cycles of the earth that are much larger than in less-developed regions. In terms of land use, for instance, they run ecological deficits or footprints 8 to 15 times larger than their total national territories (Rees and Wackernagel 1996).

In core regions, forest areas have increased during recent decades while croplands have decreased (Richards 1990). Core regions' contribution to carbon emissions through land use change has therefore declined (Figure 19.7). Agriculture and forestry in core regions tend to be intensive in terms of yield, cultivation, products per unit area and time, and application of capital and inputs affecting the carbon and other global cycles.3 Last but not least, primary activities tend to be more supported by the state through incentives and subsidies than they are in peripheries (Williams 1994).

A second development pathway occurs in rim or semiperipheral regions of Asia, Europe, and Latin America. One group of these, represented by Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan (the "Asian tigers"), experienced rapid industrialization from 1970 to 1996. These cities expanded their share of world trade production and consumption of industrial goods through a shift from light manufacturing to durable consumer goods and machinery. The national states have been relatively able to support innovative research and development, social security, urban infrastructure, and local government revenues and expenditures (Figures 19.5 and 19.8).

Households below local poverty line

Employed population (informal sector) Unemployment (total)

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment