Edgar Hertwich

About Edgar Hertwich

I am a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and currently serve as president of the International Society for Industrial Ecology. I grew up in Braunau, Austria, studied physics at Princeton and Energy & Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. From 2003-2015, I directed the Industrial Ecology Programme of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. My research interests cover life cycle assessment, sustainable consumption and production, trade and environment, risk analysis, and climate mitigation. I am interested in understanding how activities in our society require resources and produce environmental pressures. I would like to better understand the dynamics in our development that affect these driving forces and their resulting environmental pressures, and alternative courses of action that can reduce these pressures. What is the connection between human activities on the one hand and emissions and resource use on the other hand? What are the implications of our current development path? What do we need to change, both in terms of individual actions and policy frameworks, to achieve a more sustainable development.


Publications: See full list here (in Google Scholar)

Ecological tragedy, economic naiveté

The tragic extinction of species, from the black rhinoceros to plants remaining undiscovered, is unfortunately one of the hallmarks of humans on the planet. This week, the Trondheim Conference of Biodiversity celebrated its 20 year anniversary by gathering 400 scientists and international negotiators to an exchange of knowledge and ideas. The focus of this conference was on the economy and options for engaging companies and economic approaches to protect biodiversity, as well as making biodiversity [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:07+00:00 June 3rd, 2013|Reflexions|1 Comment

Rich Pressure Poor Ecosystems

I just returned from my weekly trip to the supermarket: in addition to Kenyan roses, Brazilian melons, Israeli oranges, Dutch tomatoes, Kiwis from New Zealand, and potatoes from Saudi Arabia (!), I have, for the first time, found minced beef from Botswana, sold for just over half the price of the Norwegian one. We have over the years become accustomed to the increasing variety and prettiness of food we find on supermarket shelves, regardless of [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 March 11th, 2013|New Research|0 Comments

Germany: Solar influence on climate in public spotlight

Surprisingly, a book co-written by a well-known former German environmental activist presents a strong revisionist story and is able to capture both headlines and spot on the best-seller list. I read the book  “The cold sun: why the climate catastrophe is not happen” by Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning (VL) for a coherent revisionist argument. The book was written with strong conviction and a very pervasive style. It is richly illustrated with charts displaying the time series of climatic [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 August 8th, 2012|Reflexions|1 Comment

Extinction footprints

It is a sad result of human civilisation that we are driving other species into extinction. A new study highlights the main driving forces - rich countries' consumption. Humans have always affected their environment. Environmental history is littered with stories of modifications of the environment to enhance the growth of fruit-bearing plants and the impact of our hunting. In the Americas, the late arrival of humans resulted in an extinction of most large game - and their [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 June 13th, 2012|New Research|0 Comments

Guarantees of origin and their misuse in carbon footprint calculations

In the development of the international standard for product carbon footprint analysis, there are now forces arguing that so-called guarantees of origin (GO) should be used to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity. This sound innocuous, but one should not be deceived by a misleading term! Guarantees of origin are not what they sound to be: they do not guarantee that the electricity you buy is actually from the source that it is claimed to be from. GO [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 February 15th, 2012|Scientific Issues|0 Comments

Unsustainable Developments

It seems like we right now are running hard from facing the truths and some associated pain, and that in at least two instances that are striking for their similarities: the global financial crisis and climate change. Let me begin with the financial crisis. The main problem of the financial crisis is that levels of debt have become too large and cannot be repaid by the original debtors. Lenders and many politicians are now desperately [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 December 12th, 2011|Reflexions|0 Comments

PC and TV purchases shape EEE carbon footprint

The rapid proliferation of electronic entertainment and communication equipment has eclipsed traditional household appliances like washing machines and refrigerators as the equipment with the highest residential carbon footprint; apart from heating, hot water and lighting. The Norwegian state broadcaster sent a wonderful story on our new study: a home electronics seller is interviewed, listing the number of TVs his customers have in a household: in the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and each of the kids rooms. [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 November 4th, 2011|New Research|0 Comments

Carbon Footprint 1990-2008

We present now a time series of carbon footprints in the Ranking tab. Our data lets you trace the development of carbon footprints over the period 1990-2008. You need an Adope Flash player installed to see this. This data represents national CO2 emissions corrected for trade and shows that some countries that have had reductions of national emissions have nonetheless increased their carbon footprint, like the UK. You just need to click on the country and [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 October 28th, 2011|New Research|0 Comments

Emissions from consumption may offset reported carbon emission reductions in industrialized countries

An increasing share of global emissions is from the production of internationally traded goods and services, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Due to current reporting practices, this has allowed some countries to increase their carbon footprints while reporting stabilized emissions.   If you buy a sweater or a refrigerator, emissions from the production processes are allocated to the producing country. In the consuming country [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 April 26th, 2011|New Research|0 Comments

The Carbon Footprint of Municipalities

A consumption-based account of greenhouse gas emissions reveals true climate impacts of public services. Analysis based on the environmental impacts of consumption often focuses on household consumption. Some consumption, however, is provided by public authorities and paid for through taxes, not prices. Education, health care, elderly care, street cleaning and - important for Norway! - snow plowing are examples for that. What are the environmental impacts of these activities. In a series of papers, my [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 December 13th, 2010|New Research|0 Comments