Helmut Haberl

Helmut Haberl
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna | boku · Institute of Social Ecology

Doctor of Philosophy

About

300
Publications
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21,716
Citations

Publications

Publications (300)
Article
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Forest-based mitigation strategies will play a pivotal role for achieving the rapid and deep net-emission reductions required to prevent catastrophic climate change. However, large disagreement prevails on how to forge forest-based mitigation strategies, in particular in regions where forests are currently growing in area and carbon density. Two op...
Preprint
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Spatial patterns of settlements and transport infrastructures are known to influence per-capita energy use and CO2 emissions at the urban level1–4. At the national level, other potential determinants of energy use and CO2 emissions, primarily GDP, received much attention5–7, whereas the role of settlements and infrastructure patterns was disregarde...
Article
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Close to 40% of Earth's land area is used for agriculture to provide humankind with plant- and animal-based food, fibers or bioenergy. Future trends in agricultural land use, livestock husbandry and associated environmental pressures are determined by developments in the food sector, agricultural productivity, technology, and many other influencing...
Article
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Material stocks in infrastructure, buildings and machinery shape current and future resource use and emissions. Analyses of specific countries and selected materials suggest that material stocks might saturate, which would be important for a more sustainable social metabolism. However, it is unclear to what extent the evidence holds for a wider ran...
Article
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Electricity infrastructures are key for the provision of crucial energy services and economic prosperity. We investigate the current state and historical development of the global power sector from a “stock-flow-service nexus” (SFS-nexus) perspective. The SFS-nexus emphasizes the interrelations and dependencies between social metabolism (i.e. stock...
Article
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Land use has greatly transformed Earth’s surface. While spatial reconstructions of how the extent of land cover and land‐use types have changed during the last century are available, much less information exists about changes in land‐use intensity. In particular, global reconstructions that consistently cover land‐use intensity across land‐use type...
Article
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Energy, food, or mobility can be conceptualized as provisioning systems which are decisive to sustainability transformations in how they shape resource use and because of emissions resulting from them. To curb environmental pressures and improve societal well-being, fundamental changes to existing provisioning systems are necessary. In this article...
Article
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Physical components of societies like infrastructures need biophysical resources for their construction, maintenance and use. These components, analyzed as societies' material stocks, predefine energy and raw materials and provide societal services, necessary for their functioning and for social welfare. The nexus between stocks, the resource flows...
Article
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Electricity infrastructures are crucial for economic prosperity and underpin fundamental energy services. This article provides global datasets on installed power plant capacities, transmission and distribution grid lengths as well as transformer capacities. A country-level dataset on installed electricity generation capacities during 1980 to 2017,...
Article
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The planetary boundaries concept has profoundly changed the vocabulary and representation of global environmental issues. We bring a critical social science perspective to this framework through the notion of societal boundaries and aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of the social nature of thresholds. We start by highlighting the strength...
Article
Sustainable food systems face trade-offs between demands of low environmental pressures per unit area and requirements of increasing production. Organic farming has lower yields than conventional agriculture and requires the introduction of nitrogen (N) fixing legumes in crop rotations. Here we perform an integrated assessment of the feasibility of...
Data
The dataset includes 90 global food system and land use scenarios developed with the model BioBaM-GHG 2.0. The scenarios have been developed for assessing the global potential of forest regeneration for climate mitigation to 2050 under various food system pathways, i.e. diets, crop yield developments, land requirements for energy crops, and two var...
Article
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The majority of scenarios that meet the goals of the Paris agreements exceed sustainability and precautionary thresholds in land, biodiversity and BECCS potentials. Risks may be best avoided by demand‐side driven rapid decarbonization and less land‐intensive carbon dioxide removal technologies.
Article
Background Land use is the major driver of the current biodiversity crisis. However, its impact is not yet adequately reflected in biodiversity scenarios. In particular, effects of land‐use intensity are often neglected although natural limits to land conversion will likely enforce further land‐use intensification in the future. Aims and innovatio...
Article
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As current action remains insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris agreement let alone to stabilize the climate, there is increasing hope that solutions related to demand, services and social aspects of climate change mitigation can close the gap. However, given these topics are not investigated by a single epistemic community, the literature ba...
Article
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Sustainable resource use calls for substantial changes to existing infrastructures, which lock societies into current resource use patterns. Urban mobility is a case in point: existing material stocks of infrastructure and vehicles require large amounts of materials and energy for maintenance and operation in order to provide mobility services, the...
Article
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The dynamics of societal material stocks such as buildings and infrastructures and their spatial patterns drive surging resource use and emissions. Two main types of data are currently used to map stocks, night-time lights (NTL) from Earth-observing (EO) satellites and cadastral information. We present an alternative approach for broad-scale materi...
Article
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Societies use material and energy resources to build up, maintain and utilize long-lasting structures such as buildings, infrastructures or machinery, i.e. entertain a 'social metabolism'. Nexus approaches provide useful heuristics for interdisciplinary analyses of (un)sustainable society-nature interactions, for example by highlighting relations b...
Article
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Agriculture contributes to deforestation and the conversion of other terrestrial ecosystems, affecting important ecosystem functions. A growing share of the produced agricultural commodities is traded between countries. It is widely assumed that international trade reduces humanity's pressure on land ecosystems by optimizing the mix of origin, i.e....
Article
Trade agreements could help to protect human rights, critical ecosystems, and the climate—but only if sustainability becomes a cornerstone of international trade. The EU-Mercosur trade agreement fails to meet our three tenets of sustainable trade agreements: (1) inclusion of local communities, (2) transparency mechanisms to trace commodities and pr...
Article
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This paper investigates to what extent the theories of Thomas Robert Malthus and Ester Boserup are still useful to analyse population and land-use trajectories in an industrial society at a regional scale. Following a model-based approach toward long-term socio-ecological research, we built two system dynamic models, each representing one theory, a...
Article
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The world population is expected to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050 and to ~11 billion by 2100, and securing its healthy nutrition is a key concern. As global fertile land is limited, the question arises whether growth in food consumption associated with increased affluence surmounts increases in land-use efficiency (measured as food supply per croplan...
Article
Energy and material flows and material stocks are key requirements for the supply of goods and services, which in turn support societal development. However, most resource accounting methods restrict the analysis to resource flows, which fails to acknowledge the increasing role of in‐use stocks in service provision. Using the UK transport sector as...
Article
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Material stocks are the physical basis of production and consumption and shape the dynamics of resource use and socioeconomic outcomes. We present an inflow-driven, long-term estimation of material stocks for the United Kingdom, covering 12 major materials from 1800 to 2017. We find the trajectory of the UK's stocks characterized by slow increases...
Article
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As long as economic growth is a major political goal, decoupling growth from resource use and emissions is a prerequisite for a sustainable net-zero emissions future. However, empirical evidence for absolute decoupling, i.e., decreasing resource use and emissions at the required scale despite continued economic growth, is scarce and scattered acros...
Article
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Strategies toward ambitious climate targets usually rely on the concept of “decoupling”; that is, they aim at promoting economic growth while reducing the use of natural resources and GHG emissions. GDP growth coinciding with absolute reductions in emissions or resource use is denoted as “absolute decoupling”, as opposed to “relative decoupling”, w...
Article
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Global food systems contribute to climate change, the transgression of planetary boundaries and deforestation. An improved understanding of the environmental impacts of different food system futures is crucial for forging strategies to sustainably nourish a growing world population. We here quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of global food...
Article
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Increasing evidence—synthesized in this paper—shows that economic growth contributes to biodiversity loss via greater resource consumption and higher emissions. Nonetheless, a review of international biodiversity and sustainability policies shows that the majority advocate economic growth. Since improvements in resource use efficiency have so far n...
Article
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Global bioenergy potentials have been the subject of extensive research and continued controversy. Due to vast uncertainties regarding future yields, diets and other influencing parameters, estimates of future agricultural biomass potentials vary widely. Most scenarios compatible with ambitious climate targets foresee a large expansion of bioenergy...
Article
Ecological theory is not often applied to human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP), which estimates reduction of natural net primary production (NPP) due to harvest and land use. Here we use predator–prey theory to evaluate HANPP as “predation”. Macroecology and adaptive life history strategies also help evaluate relationships among gl...
Article
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Drastic reductions of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions are required to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit global warming to 1.5-2.0 °C over pre-industrial levels. We introduce the material stock-flow framework as a novel way to develop scenarios for future GHG emissions using methods from social metabolism research. The basic ass...
Article
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Climate and land-use change jointly affect the future of biodiversity. Yet, biodiversity scenarios have so far concentrated on climatic effects because forecasts of land use are rarely available at appropriate spatial and thematic scales. Agent-based models (ABMs) represent a potentially powerful but little explored tool for establishing thematical...
Article
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Short rotation plantations are often considered as holding vast potentials for future global bioenergy supply. In contrast to raising biomass harvests in forests, purpose-grown biomass does not interfere with forest carbon (C) stocks. Provided that agricultural land can be diverted from food and feed production without impairing food security, ener...
Article
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The concept of energy services is used in different contexts and scientific fields mainly to emphasize that it is the services provided by energy rather than energy carriers that people demand and that generate well-being. While the value of the concept is widely acknowledged, there are remarkable differences in how energy services are conceptualiz...
Poster
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Human impact on ecosystems through land use has dramatically increased over the last century. The drivers of this land use have typically been decomposed into population, consumption per capita and land intensity of production. This simple decomposition has often led to misinterpretations, implying that quantities consumed could only be reduced thr...
Article
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Brazil, home to one of the planet’s last great forests, is currently in trade negotiations with its second largest trading partner, the European Union (EU). We urge the EU to seize this critical opportunity to ensure that Brazil protects human rights and the environment. Brazil’s forests, wetlands, and savannas are crucial to a great diversity of I...
Poster
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Progress towards the SDGs requires far-reaching changes in societies’ use of biophysical resources such as materials, energy or land. Current socio-metabolic research (SMR) traces flows of energy, materials or substances to capture resource use. SMR is also useful to analyze interdependencies (synergies or tradeoffs) between attempts at reaching sp...
Presentation
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We compare the C sink strength of natural succession on arable land with the C mitigation effects of plantation-based bioenergy. Using geographically explicit data on global cropland distribution among climate and ecological zones, regionally specific C accumulation rates are calculated using IPCC default methods and values. C savings from bioenerg...
Article
Recent high-level agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals aim at mitigating climate change, ecological degradation and biodiversity loss while pursuing social goals such as reducing hunger or poverty. Systemic approaches bridging natural and social sciences are required to support these agendas. The surging huma...
Conference Paper
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Second generation biofuels (2G biofuels) produced from lignocellulosic biomass are often considered as integral part of a future sustainable transport system. Provided that substantial areas of agricultural land can be diverted from food and feed production without impairing food security, energy plantations managed in short rotation appear as a pr...
Book
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Bioenergie kann vielfältig im Energiesystem genutzt werden, etwa als Kraftstoff im Verkehr, zur Wärmeerzeugung oder zur Stromproduktion. Aber wo sind die begrenzten Biomassepotenziale am sinnvollsten einsetzbar? Und wie viel Bioenergie kann nachhaltig genutzt werden, wenn man den Nahrungsmittelbedarf der wachsenden Weltbevölkerung und die steigende...
Article
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Assessments of land-system change have dominantly focused on conversions among broad land-use categories, whereas intensity changes within these categories have received less attention. Considering that both modes of land change typically result in diverse patterns and trajectories of land-system change, there is a need to develop approaches to red...
Article
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The 1.5 °C mitigation challenge for urban areas goes far beyond decarbonizing the cities’ energy supply and needs to enable and incentivize carbon-free everyday living. Reviewing recent literature, we find that dense and mixed urban form enables lower direct emissions from mobility and housing, while income is the major driver of total household ca...
Article
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Carbon stocks in vegetation have a key role in the climate system. However, the magnitude, patterns and uncertainties of carbon stocks and the effect of land use on the stocks remain poorly quantified. Here we show, using state-of-the-art datasets, that vegetation currently stores around 450 petagrams of carbon. In the hypothetical absence of land...
Data
Hypothetic absorption potentials of carbon stock restorations and indicative years until saturation at a current emission level of 9 PgC yr-1. Note that a restoration to 100% of the potential probably entails a cessation of the respective land use, due to the intrinsic relations of harvest and carbon stocks25. *Years until saturation at current C-e...
Data
Comparison of the difference between potential and actual biomass stocks to components of the global carbon balance, including LUC emissions and net terrestrial biosphere sink. Bold figures refer to results of this study, all others represent independent estimates. The difference in biomass stock of 447 PgC (375-525) is well in line with estimates...
Article
Urban expansion often occurs on croplands. However, there is little scientific understanding of how global patterns of future urban expansion will affect the world's cultivated areas. Here, we combine spatially explicit projections of urban expansion with datasets on global croplands and crop yields. Our results show that urban expansion will resul...
Article
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Transformation has become a major topic of sustainability research. This opens up new perspectives, but at the same time, runs the danger to convert into a new critical orthodoxy which narrows down analytical perspectives. Most research is committed towards a political-strategic approach towards transformation. This focus, however, clashes with ong...
Article
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Fundamental changes in the societal use of biophysical resources are required for a sustainability transformation. Current socioeconomic metabolism research traces flows of energy, materials or substances to capture resource use: input of raw materials or energy, their fate in production and consumption, and the discharge of wastes and emissions. T...
Article
Human impacts on the Earth system mark the dawn of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. This claim has triggered a debate in science, media, and politics in which ‘humanity’ as a whole is commonly identified as the driving force of epochal environmental change. The historically and geographically specific expansion of capitalist society-nature...