What is an ecological footprint?
The Global Footprint Network uses an ecological footprint measure to calculate a country’s population’s environmental effect on the environment.
Forestry, farming, fishing, mining, and manufacturing all have an ecological footprint that can be quantified by looking at how much natural resource we use in each of these activities.
The ecological footprint may assist people in understanding their influence on the Earth, guide nations in increasing sustainability and well-being, and advise local authorities when distributing financing for public initiatives, especially when combined with complementary measures like biocapacity.
To construct an environmental accounting system based on supply and demand, the ecological footprint is often combined with another statistic, the biocapacity.
An environmental footprint (the number of natural resources used) is used to assess whether or not the ecosystem can maintain present levels of resource use. For ecological footprint and biocapacity, global hectares (gha) are used as the unit of measurement.
Most Ecologically Impactful Countries in the World (in gha, 2017)
- Qatar — 14.72
- Luxembourg — 12.79
- United Arab Emirates — 8.95
- Bahrain — 8.66
- Trinidad and Tobago — 8.23
- Canada — 8.08
- Mongolia — 8.05
- United States — 8.04
- Kuwait — 8.03
- Oman — 7.29
Biocapacity reserve, ecological footprint, and biocapacity
For supply and demand, ecological footprint measures the ecological assets a population requires to generate the natural resources it consumes and absorb its carbon emissions and other waste, which is the demand side.
To determine the genuine effect, the supply side of the equation, biocapacity, must be compared to a parallel statistic, a country’s ecological footprint.
Biocapacity refers to an area’s ability to sustain a human population while producing renewable resources and absorbing any wastes that result from their use. This means that a specific population’s ecological footprint surpasses its biocapacity.
Natural resources are in limited supply because of the increasing demand, which may lead to shortages (even of necessities like food and shelter), price increases, and increased pollution of the environment on all levels.
When a population’s ecological footprint is less than its biocapacity, it has an ecological reserve, which indicates it can sustain its present population level of consumption with little concern.
As a result, human survival depends on limiting our ecological impact to that which is compatible with our biocapacity.
The biocapacity reserve of an ecosystem is often calculated by subtracting its ecological footprint from its biocapacity.
Having a positive biocapacity reserve indicates that the environment is providing or renewing resources at a higher rate than people can use. In the absence of a positive reserve, people are depleting resources faster than they can be replenished.
Countries’ ecological footprints, biocapacity, and biocapacity reserves differ substantially. A country’s environmental footprint and biocapacity are influenced by various variables, including its topography, population size, environmental policy, and degree of economic growth.
Environmental footprints are more pronounced in highly industrialized and high-income nations, with more industry and a larger population.
Despite this, many emerging nations rely heavily on fossil fuels, frequently the principal contributors to their ecological footprint. Having a smaller land area means less biocapacity while having a large population means more consumption.
Canada and Finland, two of the World’s most developed nations, have positive biocapacity reserves, proving that even wealthy countries can do so.
Denmark and Switzerland are two more nations known for their environmental stewardship.
Countries with the Most Biocapacity Reserves in the World (in gha, 2017)
- Suriname — 80.87
- Guyana — 63.98
- Gabon — 19.28
- Bolivia — 12.41
- Congo (Rep. of) — 7.87
- Canada — 6.90
- Paraguay — 6.74
- Finland — 6.61
- Central African Republic — 6.35
- Brazil — 5.80
There were 12 billion people on the planet in 2017, with an average ecological footprint of 2.77 global hectares per person, with an average biocapacity of 1.60.
To put it another way, humanity’s use of natural resources surpasses the Earth’s ability to restore those resources. This works out to 1.17 global hectares per person.
5 most ecologically deficient countries in the World (in gha)
In 2017, China’s ecological footprint per person was 3.71 hectares, while its biocapacity was 0.92 hectares. The ecological footprint of China is the largest in the World, at 5.3 billion hectares.
A total ecological deficit of – 4 billion gha (the second-largest in the World) and a per-capita biocapacity reserve of -2.79 — both surprisingly high for a nation with such remarkable biocapacity — are the consequence of China’s enormous population and its 1.3 billion hectares of biocapacity.
As China’s economy continues to grow, the salaries of its residents and the number of resources they use are also growing. It seems expected that China’s imbalanced use of resources will be a major issue in the future.
2. United States
Only 3.45 hectares of biocapacity can support each of the country’s 8.04 gha ecological footprint, making it one of the biggest in the World.
There is a total ecological deficit of -1.49 billion hectares and a biocapacity reserve of -4.59 gha per capita. The ecological footprint of the typical American is roughly half as big as that of the average European.
As a result, the United States consumes more fossil fuels and generates more carbon dioxide per capita than most other nations. U.S. citizens also use much more water and electricity per capita than the populations of most other affluent nations.
California’s ecological footprint (and GDP) is similar to that of France, although the latter has a population nearly 60 percent larger (39.5 million vs. 65.3 million).
Many individuals in India cannot afford to purchase a vehicle or heat their houses due to pervasive poverty, which has a detrimental impact on the country’s ecological footprint per capita of 1.19.
Also, India’s biocapacity per capita is quite low, at 0.43 hectares, likely due to the country’s very tiny land area compared to the United States and China.
Although India’s biocapacity reserve of -0.76 places it in the middle of the pack, its ecological deficit still exceeds -1 billion hectares due to its enormous population.
4 & 5. Japan and South Korea
In Japan, each person’s ecological footprint is 4.65 hectares, while each person’s biocapacity is 0.59 hectares. Japan has the fourth-largest ecological deficit in the World with -517 million gha.
The bulk of Japan’s ecological footprint is due to its use of fossil fuels, as is the case with many other nations.
To make matters worse, the limited geographical area of Japan, coupled with a big population and a high degree of technology that both serve to raise consumption, puts further strain on the country’s biocapacity.
It is no coincidence that South Korea has the World’s fifth-largest ecological deficit (-281 billion gha) since its carbon usage, poor biocapacity, high population density, and rapid technological growth parallel Japan’s.
The United Kingdom is an eco-footprint success story.
As a result, the United Kingdom, which would have the fifth-largest ecological deficit only a few years ago, has fallen to ninth and is expected to continue declining.
The ecological footprint decreased by roughly 27% between 2007 and 2017, mostly owing to decreases in fossil fuel consumption, which reduced the country’s total ecological deficit from -307.9 billion GHA in 2007 to 206.2 billion GHA in 2017
|Country||Ecological Footprint (per capita)||Biocapacity (per capita)||2022 Population|
|United Arab Emirates||8.9500||0.5300||10081.7850|
|Trinidad and Tobago||8.2300||1.5400||1406.5850|
|Antigua and Barbuda||4.2700||0.8300||99.5090|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||3.4900||1.7700||3249.3170|
|British Virgin Islands||3.4300||1.8600||30.5960|
|Papua New Guinea||1.8200||3.4800||9292.1690|
|Sao Tome and Principe||1.6200||0.8300||227.6790|
|Central African Republic||1.1700||7.5200||5016.6780|
|Republic of the Congo||1.0700||8.9400||5797.8050|
Also See: Coal Consumption by Country 2022