Population and Environment

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 7–47

Beyond IPAT and Kuznets Curves: Globalization as a Vital Factor in Analysing the Environmental Impact of Socio-Economic Metabolism


  • Marina Fischer-Kowalski
    • Department of Social EcologyInstitute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities (IFF)
  • Christof Amann
    • Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities (IFF)

DOI: 10.1023/A:1017560208742

Cite this article as:
Fischer-Kowalski, M. & Amann, C. Population and Environment (2001) 23: 7. doi:10.1023/A:1017560208742


We bring the rapidly developing tools for analyzing “society's metabolism” to the attention of a scientific audience concerned with matters of population and, in a complementary fashion, we draw the attention of material and energy flow analysts to the role of population and population dynamics within their own paradigm. As an analytic framework, we use the classic “IPAT-model” that relates environmental impact (I), population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T). We relate the IPAT model to the tool commonly used in MFA, so-called environmental Kuznets curves, and re-analyze empirical data from various sources, for both affluent industrial and for developing countries, within these frameworks. We conclude that population and technology seem to dominate over affluence as far as environmental impact is concerned, but that both the IPAT and Kuznets models fail to take into account the intricate interdependencies among different socio-economic systems and the increases in their the economic, material and population exchanges. In effect, both models tend to underestimate the environmental impact and create too optimistic an image of “dematerialization” in affluent industrial countries.

IPAT modelenvironmental Kuznets curves (EKC)material flow analysisnational MFA for Austria, Brazil, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuelametabolic profileinternational tradesocio-economic metabolismeconomies in transitionmaterial intensity

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2001