Possible but rare: Safe and just satisfaction of national human needs in terms of ecosystem services

Elsevier, One Earth, Volume 6, 21 April 2023
Aleissa Y.M., Bakshi B.R.

Providing adequate food, energy, and water to everyone without exceeding nature's carrying capacity is a formidable challenge facing humanity. For this, we need to know whether each nation's needs are being met in an environmentally safe and socially just manner. Here, we develop a biophysical approach for such quantification in terms of ecosystem goods and services. For each nation, we quantify the minimum greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption to meet basic needs, the actual demand of these flows, and their ecosystems’ capacities to provide these services. We find that 67% of nations are operating within their safe and just space for water provisioning but only 9% are doing so for carbon sequestration and 6% for both. A safe and just space does not exist for 37% for carbon sequestration and 10% for water provisioning. Our framework can guide technology, policy, and trade decisions for meeting basic needs in a safe and just manner.