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Carbon emissions of infrastructure development

Carbon emissions of infrastructure development
Daniel B. Müller
Gang Liu
Amund N. Løvik
Roja Modaresi
Stefan Pauliuk
Franciska S. Steinhoff
Helge Brattebø
Journal Article
Environmental Science & Technology, Volume 47, Issue 20, Pages 11739-11746
Identifying strategies for reconciling human development and climate change mitigation requires an adequate understanding of how infrastructures contribute to well-being and greenhouse gas emissions. While direct emissions from infrastructure use are well-known, information about indirect emissions from their construction is highly fragmented. Here, we estimated the carbon footprint of the existing global infrastructure stock in 2008, assuming current technologies, to be 122 (−20/+15) Gt CO2. The average per-capita carbon footprint of infrastructures in industrialized countries (53 (±6) t CO2) was approximately 5 times larger that that of developing countries (10 (±1) t CO2). A globalization of Western infrastructure stocks using current technologies would cause approximately 350 Gt CO2 from materials production, which corresponds to about 35-60% of the remaining carbon budget available until 2050 if the average temperature increase is to be limited to 2 °C, and could thus compromise the 2 °C target. A promising but poorly explored mitigation option is to build new settlements using less emissions-intensive materials, for example by urban design; however, this strategy is constrained by a lack of bottom-up data on material stocks in infrastructures. Infrastructure development must be considered in post-Kyoto climate change agreements if developing countries are to participate on a fair basis.
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