The Environmental balance sheet of nations: reflections on global climate change scenarios
The objective of this work is to prepare environmental balance sheets of countries based on the scenarios for climate change and global warming indicated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)of the United Nations (UN). We consider the stock of forest resources and the residual balance between emission and capture of carbon or greenhouse gases (GHGs) estimated for each country in 2020 and 2050, according to the two editions (A1B1 and A2B2) of theSpecial Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES). The study is multidisciplinary in nature, involving concepts from the areas of climate change biology, energy, geoscience, economics and accounting. The last discipline was used to delineate the research subject and served as a method, by means of the Inquired Balance Sheet technique, to measure and classify environmental assets, liabilities and net equity. We selected a sample of seven countries, the four leading developing countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China – the BRICs) and one developed country each from the Americas, Europe and Asia (USA, Germany and Japan). The balance sheets of each country were calculated in equivalent gross domestic product (GDP) units, adjusted by per capita energy consumption in metric tons of oil equivalent (TOE) and megatons of carbon (MtonC), priced at the cost (in US$) of carbon credits suggested by the UN. The results show that the developed countries are consuming resources not only from other nations, but from future generations as well, and although Brazil and Russia have environmental surpluses, the consolidated balance sheet for the planet in the scenario for 2050 indicates a deficit or bankruptcy situation, with an “uncovered liability” or negative net equity of US$ 2,300 annually for each of the current 6.6 billion people (2008) and an environmental liability equivalent to a quarter of global GDP. This unconventional accounting report is a rendering or global accounts based on future scenarios and suggests the need for coordinated actions involving social, environmental, cultural and economic aspects.