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Is Sustainable Growth Possible? The Challenge of Reconciling an Increasing Human Population and a Neutral Carbon Balance

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2021) | Viewed by 3902

Special Issue Editor

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Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bolzano, Piazza Università 1, I-39100 Bolzano, Italy
Interests: carbon and water biogeochemical cycles; ecosystem ecology; climate change
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The current climate crisis, determined by the anthropogenic change of the atmospheric composition, requires rapid and coordinated actions by society. However, from the scientific community, a clear pathway towards its solution has not yet been established.

There are two different perspectives that can be considered for this solution, namely: One is biogeochemical, related to the balance between absorbed and released carbon dioxide, alongside with other GHGs. The second is human-related, involving the dynamics of the human population and its propensity to consume.

From the one side, the terrestrial ecosystem capacity of absorbing the main greenhouse gas, CO2, largely exceeds the current imbalance. It is a scientific priority to understand the driving variables determining the balance between CO2 assimilation and release to various ecosystems, and to what extent the human activity can influence and possibly improve the terrestrial sink capacity.

On the other side, the human population is still growing at a very high rate, with some evidence of decline in wide regions, but other evidence of unprecedented levels of increase in other areas, with the potential of offsetting and reversing the ongoing climate policies.

This Special Issue aims to collect current knowledge and modeling studies about the carbon-use efficiency in natural and human-managed ecosystems, and new proposals aimed at increasing the long-term capacity of the terrestrial ecosystem to sequester carbon, through practices like biochar or new methods. To reach the expected results, these modeling efforts and new proposals should be contextualized in the perspective of human population dynamics.

Prof. Dr. Leonardo Montagnani
Guest Editor

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  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Increasing human population
  • Terrestrial sink capacity

Published Papers (1 paper)

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21 pages, 3052 KiB  
Population and Economic Projections in the Yangtze River Basin Based on Shared Socioeconomic Pathways
by Min Zhu, Zengxin Zhang, Bin Zhu, Rui Kong, Fengying Zhang, Jiaxi Tian and Tong Jiang
Sustainability 2020, 12(10), 4202; - 20 May 2020
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 3322
The shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) were designed to project future socioeconomic developments as they might unfold in the absence of explicit additional policies and measures to limit climate forcing or to enhance adaptive capacity. Based on the sixth national population census and the [...] Read more.
The shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) were designed to project future socioeconomic developments as they might unfold in the absence of explicit additional policies and measures to limit climate forcing or to enhance adaptive capacity. Based on the sixth national population census and the third economic census data of China in 2010, this paper projects the population and economic conditions of the Yangtze River basin from 2010 to 2100 under the SSPs. The results showed that: (1) the population growth rate in most areas of the Yangtze River basin will decrease from 2021 to 2100. The population of the eastern Sichuan Province will decrease obviously, while it will increase obviously in Shanghai during this period. The population of the Yangtze River basin will decline from 2010 to 2100 under the SSPs except for SSP3; (2) The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in most regions will increase by more than CNY 30 billion (Chinese Yuan) compared with 2010 and the total GDP will continue to rise after 2020; (3) The population of the three major urban agglomerations will decrease from 2020 to 2100. However, the GDP of the three major urban agglomerations will increase year by year, among which the YRDUA (Yangtze River Delta Urban Agglomeration) has obvious economic advantages. The GDP growth rate will maintain above 6% in 2020 under different SSPs, and then the growth rate will slow down or stall, even with negative growth in SSP1 and SSP4; (4) The GDP Per of the Yangtze River basin shows growth under different SSPs and it will maintain a growth rate of 6–9% until 2020. While the average annual growth rate of the SSP5 will be about 2.56% at the end of the 21st century, and it will remain at about 1% under other scenarios. This paper provides a scientific basis for the study of future population and socioeconomic changes and climate predictions for quantifying disaster risks. Full article
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