A Global Assessment of Manufacturing: Economic Development, Energy Use, Carbon Emissions, and the Potential for Energy Efficiency and Materials Recycling

T. G. Gutowski, J. M. Allwood, C. Herrmann, S. Sahni

We present in two parts an assessment of global manufacturing. In the first part, we review economic development, pollution, and carbon emissions from a country perspective, tracking the rise of China and other developing countries. The results show not only a rise in the economic fortunes of the newly industrializing nations, but also a significant rise in global pollution, particularly air pollution and CO2emissions largely from coal use, which alter and even reverse previous global trends. In the second part, we change perspective and quantitatively evaluate two important technical strategies to reduce pollution and carbon emissions: energy efficiency and materials recycling. We subdivide the manufacturing sector on the basis of the five major subsectors that dominate energy use and carbon emissions: (a) iron and steel, (b) cement, (c) plastics, (d) paper, and (e) aluminum. The analysis identifies technical constraints on these strategies, but by combined and aggressive action, industry should be able to balance increases in demand with these technical improvements. The result would be high but relatively flat energy use and carbon emissions. The review closes by demonstrating the consequences of extrapolating trends in production and carbon emissions and suggesting two options for further environmental improvements, materials efficiency, and demand reduction.