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)

Recognition for the Carbon Footprint

NATURE recently recognized the work presented in this web page, and more specifically the Carbon Footprint of Nations paper. In the category 'Community choice - the most viewed papers in science', the paper was reviewed under the title Where greenhouse gases start. At the same time, we got word that the Resource Panel Report Priority Products and Materials - which triggered the work presented here - has been downloaded over half a million times from the UNEP webservers since [...]

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

Contributing to the IPCC

I have the great honor to be selected to serve on the IPCC as lead author of the fifth assessment report. It has always been my desire to contribute to addressing environmental problems. Climate Science is fascinating – the ways scientists have found to tease out evidence about past climate are amazing. It is scary to see how the various pieces of the puzzle – not all of them yet found or correctly placed – [...]

By | 2013-03-26T09:03:44+00:00 July 30th, 2010|Uncategorized|0 Comments

UN Resource Panel highlights food and fossil fuel as global problems

It was my big day in Brussels: The deputy director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Angela Kropper, and the EU's Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik, were there for the launch of our report, The Environmental Impact of Production and Consumption: Priority Products and Materials. It was the request for the report that prompted me to work on the Carbon Footprint of Nations. The report was written by a working group of the Resource Panel and published [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:08+00:00 June 30th, 2010|Reflexions|0 Comments

Carbon footprint calculation methods matter for policy

Recently, the idea of monitoring the carbon footprint of a nation as one option for climate policy has found its way into the legislative process in the UK. A Private Members Bill has been put forward in the House of Lords – the Bill seeks to put in place a consumer emissions target (the current UK Climate Change Act which sets an 80% reduction target only addresses production, i.e. territorial, emissions). Lord Teverson who initiated the bill said: "The [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:09+00:00 April 9th, 2010|Reflexions|0 Comments

Top Environmental Policy Paper

The Carbon Footprint of Nations has been recognized as the Top Environmental Policy Paper in 2009 by Environmental Science & Technology (announcement). It is a big honor for us to win that award. ES&T is the most important journal in environmental science and environmental technology, publishing 1500 papers in 2009. We were apparently among 80 papers nominated for the award. Most likely, the popular appeal and policy relevance of our paper was an important factor in our favor. We have previously [...]

By | 2013-03-26T09:03:44+00:00 March 11th, 2010|Reflexions|0 Comments

Carbon Footprint – Updated

A recent update of our study on the carbon footprint of nations highlights the role of China, Russia, the USA and the EU. Steven Davis and Ken Caldeira have just published an analysis of the carbon footprint of nations using the GTAP 7 database, allowing for a comparison of the years 2004 and 2001. The paper published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS for short) uses the same methods, research questions and data [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:09+00:00 March 11th, 2010|New Research|0 Comments

Sharing the atmosphere

The Climate Conference in Copenhagen has ended as expected: with a political declaration instead of a legally binding agreement. Nonetheless, there seems to be wide-spread disappointment among the public. Commentators are busy portioning out blame for the failure of the negotiations, where the U.S., China, and the unwieldy UN procedures receive the largest shares. Those involved in the negotiations process see Copenhagen as a stepping stone rather than a finish line: they point out that the Copenhagen Accord keeps going the process towards [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:09+00:00 December 28th, 2009|Reflexions|0 Comments

“Exported Emissions” at COP15

The Guardian and industry actors call for considering Carbon Embodied in Trade as part of a climate deal at Copenhagen. On December 7, 2009, 56 newspapers from 20 countries published a joint editorial calling world leaders to use the 14 days of climate negotiations in Copenhagen in order to come to an effective and fair agreement to limit climate change. At the time I am writing this, it is too early to see whether the call will [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:09+00:00 December 14th, 2009|Reflexions|0 Comments

The Environmental Footprint of Biofuels

A new UN report emphasizes the importance of addressing land use, water, and biodiversity impacts of biofuels. The jury is now in on biofuels: Current government mandates in the United States, Europe and other countries to blend biofuels into ordinary car fuels cause substantial environmental damage, do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and have a questionable contribution to energy security. A new UN report and a new book document many, sometimes fascinating facets of this intricate issue. There [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:09+00:00 November 15th, 2009|Scientific Issues|0 Comments

Carbon Market Promises and Woes

Economists argue that the carbon market suffices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and attack additional policy tools for increasing mitigation costs. Time to look at how the carbon market works in practice! In my last blog I have pointed to the campaign of a few Norwegian economistsagainst climate policy tools such as the newly established green certificate market, which ensures a higher electricity price for renewable electricity. I published a similar critique in Dagens Næringsliv, a [...]

By | 2017-11-08T21:16:09+00:00 October 18th, 2009|Reflexions|0 Comments