Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2005, Vol. 60 ›› Issue (2): 198-208.doi: 10.11821/xb200502003

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ImPACTS Identity of Sustainability Assessment

XU Zhongmin1, CHENG Guodong1, QIU GuoYu2   

  1. 1. Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China;
    2. Chinese Center for Desert Research, College of Resources Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2004-08-30 Revised:2004-12-11 Online:2005-03-25 Published:2005-03-25
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40201019; Key Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40235053; The Assessment of Impact and Adaptation of Climate Change (AIACC) Project, No.AS25


Based on formal ImPACT identity which describes environmental impacts (Im) as a function of population(P), affluence(A), intensity use(C) and efficiency(T), a new “ImPACTS” identity as a framework for sustainability science was produced, where S denote the level of social resources, m is assigned to management and I is changed from formal environmental impacts to the trade-off between environmental impacts and development. Finally, we demonstrate the utility of ImPACTS by performing an empirical analysis of our integrated impacts assessment on the Earth by using existing data of Ecological footprint and Human development index. In an attempt to analyse the relationship between ecological footprint and social development using existing data, developed countries showed a great advantage over developing countries in terms of energy resource use efficiency due to their social and technological development. Global warming shows that humanity has gone beyond the sustainable scale of the Earth. We thus suggest that every country should increase its global share of ecological footprints within the sustainable scale of the Earth, rather than simply decrease its ecological footprints. The reason why current analysis contradicts the conventional ecological footprint analysis is that ecological footprint's concept simply considers the land embodied in goods and attributes a high ecological footprint value to high-income countries, and effects of trade on social development and in turn on the environment have not been considered. The ecological footprint analysis ignores the effects of development mainly in the stock of social resources on environment. The critical point in sustainable development is to harmonize environment and development. Examples from water shortage in northern China and China's food security and world energy consumption show that managing and mobilizing social resources should be considered as an alternative to mitigating human impacts on the environment and adapting to these impacts.

Key words: ImPACTS identity, social development, environmental impacts, ecological footprint, ImPACT identity