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Environmental Accounting

Introduction:

The requirement for sustainable development and the impact of climate change have forced governments and policymakers to address the environmental impact of land use. The conflicting need to provide food, fibre and fuel, for an increasing population, can result in unintended consequences in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. These problems, and possible solutions, are best understood by quantifying the environmental impact of production.

This module will examine existing methods of environmental accounting, for example, life cycle assessment, ecological footprinting and carbon footprinting and will demonstrate how they can be used to differentiate the environmental impacts of crop production systems.

The module will consider natural and man-made ecosystems and the products that society demands from these ecosystems. It will look at the costs of providing and not providing these products and at how scale and time can be taken into account. The ecosystems approach will become a dominant tool in the ways in which we manage our environment, integrate social responsibility with business opportunities and plan a sustainable future for our species.

Climate change is one of many drivers for the increasing importance of the science of ecosystem services. Case studies, visits and structured learning will provide students with insights to a rapidly developing field around which many career opportunities will evolve.

Objectives:

On completion of this module participants will be able to:

  • To understand that land is a limited resource and the requirement to reduce the environmental impact of food production
  • To appreciate the different approaches to environmental accounting
  • To produce different forms of environmental accounts
  • To interpret critically the accounts of others

Contents:

  • Examination of the environmental burdens of land use (greenhouse gases, pesticides etc).
  • Examine competing land use issues
  • Examine and critique the different environmental accounting methods
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Footprinting (ecological, water and carbon)
  • Appreciate, identify and discuss relevant methodologies
  • Understand how different approaches can be used in different circumstances
  • Methods for using data inventories in LCA and footprinting
  • Construct a life cycle assessment
  • Construct a carbon and water footprint
  • The presentation and interpretation of LCA and footprint results
  • Compare results from food, fibre and fuel production systems
  • Make recommendations on suitable approaches