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Research Integrated Research on Energy, Environment and Society | IREES Research

Global value chains

theme global value chains
theme global value chains


Only plants (autotrophs) can take carbon from the atmosphere and make it available to animals (heterotrophs) as much as only plants can capture solar energy and inject it into the complex, vast ecosystem which is Earth, to keep its engine running. Food chains are the churning wheels of this marvellous engine, whose size could span between 500 and 1000 billion tons (10^9) of carbon atoms. Agriculture contributes to this balance capturing around 4 Gt of carbon every year, but fossil fuels release more than 20 Gt and stock 0.5 Gt in chemicals and plastics. Similarly to food chains for the biosphere, global value chains for the technosphere constitute the network through which fossil carbon is taken from the (underground) pools and released in the atmosphere (CO2) or in geosphere (land and water). Global value chains are the human main, planetary mechanism molding our environment; and our society too, through the international and domestic division of labour, in an intertwined and complex fashion, building our own, fragile synthetic-ecosystem. Who are the main actors and (energy) drivers of this process? What are its structural properties, how fragile or resilient is it, to shocks or innovations? To what extent can different consumption patterns, institutional changes or policies steer it and in what direction? Vice versa, how does this human-made planetary mechanism affect our lives, in the short and long run, from the household to the global scale?

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Last modified:01 December 2021 12.07 p.m.