Skip Navigation Links
Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management
António Mendes Lopes (editor), Jiazhong Zhang(editor)
António Mendes Lopes (editor)

University of Porto, Portugal


Jiazhong Zhang (editor)

School of Energy and Power Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 710049, China

Fax: +86 29 82668723 Email:

Wealth, trade and the environment: Carrying capacity, economic performance and wellbeing in Brazil and Italy

Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management 1(2) (2013) 159--188 | DOI:10.5890/JEAM.2013.05.005

Lucas Pereira$^{1}$, Amalia Zucaro$^{2}$, Enrique Ortega$^{3}$, Sergio Ulgiati$^{4}$

$^{1}$ Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory, CTBE/CNPEM, Caixa Postal 6170, 13083-970, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

$^{2}$ Department of Biology, Federico II University of Naples, Complesso Universitario di M.S. Angelo, Via Cintia, 80126, Naples, Italy

$^{3}$ Ecological Engineering Laboratory, Food Eng. School, State University of Campinas, Caixa Postal 6121, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

$^{4}$ Department of Environmental Sciences, Parthenope University, Centro Direzionale - Isola C/4 - 80143, Naples, Italy

Download Full Text PDF



Time series analyses have been proven to be useful in capturing tendencies of country’s economical behavior. The aim of this work is to investigate and compare time series of Brazilian and Italian economies on the basis of the emergy synthesis method. The main objective is to provide comprehensive indicators of carrying capacity, economic performance and wellbeing over time, pointing out the differences between a fast developing nation, Brazil, and a developed nation, Italy. Focus is placed on emergy indicators capable of accounting for societal metabolism and shedding light on conventional monetary assessments. Trade between Brazil and Italy is also investigated in order to stress issues of fair and equitable trade in terms of balanced emergy exchange. Emergy indicators show that Brazil now relies on a decreasing percentage of renewable resources, resulting in increasing environmental load and decreasing global sustainability. Results are even worse for Italy that keeps using much larger fractions of nonrenewable and imported resources. As for the trade between the two countries: in the year 2008, Brazil exported to Italy 5.68E+22 seJ mainly in the form of raw resources, while imported 1.78E+21 seJ of manufactured commodities, generating a huge unbalance in terms of emergy traded.


  1. [1]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2004), Emergy analysis and environmental accounting, In: Cleveland, C. (Ed.), Energy. Academic Press, Elsevier, Oxford, UK, pp. 329-354.
  2. [2]  Odum, H.T. (1996), Environmental Accounting. Emergy and Environmental Decision Making, John Wiley & Sons, New York, USA, 370 pp.
  3. [3]  Dong, X., Ulgiati, S., Yan, M., and Gao, W. (2008), Progress, influence and perspectives of emergy theories in China, in support of environmentally sound economic development and equitable trade, Energy Policy, 36(3), 1019-1028.
  4. [4]  Du, H., Guo, J., Mao, G., Smith, A.M., Wang, X., and Wang, Y. (2011), CO2 emissions embodied in China-US trade: Input-output analysis based on the emergy/dollar ratio, Energy Policy, 39(10), 5980-5987.
  5. [5]  Giannetti, B.F., Almeida, C.M.V.B., and Bonilla, S.H. (2010), Comparing emergy accounting with well-known sustainability metrics: The case of southern cone common market, Mercosur. Energy Policy, 38(7), 3518-3526.
  6. [6]  Lei, K. and Zhou, S. (2012), Per capita resource consumption and resource carrying capacity: A comparison of the sustainability of 17 mainstream countries, Energy Policy, 42, 603-612.
  7. [7]  Yang, Z.F., Jiang, M.M., Chen, B., Zhou, J.B., Chen, G.Q., and Li, S.C. (2010), Solar emergy evaluation for Chinese economy, Energy Policy, 38(2), 875-886.
  8. [8]  Odum, H.T. (2000), Folio #2. Emergy of Global Processes. Handbook of Emergy Evaluation. A Compendium of Data for Emergy Computation, Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  9. [9]  Brown, M.T. and Cohen, M. (2006), National Environmental Accounting Database (NEAD), Project supported by the Norwegian Government and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Center for Environmental Policy, Environmental Engineering Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA. Available at: Last accessed: 06/03/2010.
  10. [10]  Cialani, C., Russi, D., and Ulgiati, S. (2005), Investigating a 20-year National Economic Dynamics by Means of Emergy-based Indicators, In: Brown, M.T., D. Campbell, V. Comar, S.L. Huang., T. Rydberg, D.R. Tilley, and S. Ulgiati (Eds.). 2004. Emergy Synthesis. Theory and Applications of the Emergy Methodology - 3, The Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, 2005, pp. 401-416.
  11. [11]  Coelho, O., Ortega, E., and Comar, V. (2003), Balanço de emergia do Brasil, In: Ortega, E. (Ed.). Engenharia ecológica e agricultura sustentável: Exemplos de uso da metodologia energética-ecossistêmica. Available at: Last accessed: 10/05/2010.
  12. [12]  Comar, V. (1998), Avaliação emergética de projetos agrícolas e agro-industriais no Alto Rio Pardo: a busca do Desenvolvimento Sustentável (Emergy evaluation of agricultural and agro-industrial projects at the Pardo river watershed: search for sustainable development), Ph.D. Thesis. State University of Campinas, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  13. [13]  Lomas, P.L., Cialani, C., and Ulgiati, S. (2007), Emergy Analysis of Nations: Lessons Learned from Historical Series, In: Brown, M.T., Campbell, D., Comar, V., Haung, S.L., Rydberg, T., Tilley, D., Ulgiati, S. (Eds.), Emergy Synthesis, 4, 39.1-39.18.
  14. [14]  Odum, H.T., Brown, M.T., and Christianson, R.A. (1986), Energy Systems Overview of the Amazon Basin, Report to the Cousteau Society, Center for Wetlands. Publication #86-1, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, 190 pp.
  15. [15]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2012), Resource quality, technological efficiency and factors of scale within the emergy framework, A response to Marco Raugei, Ecological Modelling, 227, 109-111.
  16. [16]  Franzese, P., Rydberg, T., Russo, G.F., and Ulgiati, S. (2009), Sustainable biomass production: A comparison between Gross Energy Requirement and Emergy Synthesis methods, Ecological Indicators, 9, 959-970.
  17. [17]  MME. (2010), Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy, National Energy Balance 2010, Available at:
  18. [18] Last accessed: 03/09/2009.
  19. [19]  IMF. (2010), International Monetary Fund, GDP and PPP GDPs for Selected Countries, Available at:
  20. [20] Last accessed: 04/05/2010.
  21. [21]  IBGE. (2011), Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, National Accounting System no. 34. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  22. [22]  MDIC. (2010), Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Exterior Commerce, Brazilian Trade Balance - Consolidated Data 2008, Available at: Last accessed: 05/20/2011.
  23. [23]  IBRAM. (2010), Brazilian Institute of Mining. Information and Analysis of the Brazilian Mineral Economy, 5th edition, Available at: Last accessed: 04/05/2009.
  24. [24]  ISTAT. (2009), Italian National Institute for Statistics, Annual Report: The state of the Nation in 2008, Available at: Last accessed: 05/04/2010.
  25. [25]  ISTAT. (2008), Italian National Institute for Statistics, 2009, Annuario ISTAT-ICE 2008. Available at:
  26. [26] Last accessed: 10/04/2010.
  27. [27]  Odum, H.T. (2007), Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy, Columbia University Press, USA, 432 pp.
  28. [28]  Odum, H.T. (1988), Self-organization, transformity, and information, Science, 242, 1132-1139.
  29. [29]  De Groot, S.R. and Mazur, P. (1962), Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics, North-Holland, Amsterdam.
  30. [30]  Prigogine, I. (1947), Study of thermodynamics of Irreversible Processes, 3rd ed, Wiley, New York.
  31. [31]  Odum, H.T. and Odum, E.C. (Eds.) (1983), Energy Analysis Overview of Nations, International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria.
  32. [32]  von Bertalanffy, L. (1968), General System Theory, George Braziller, New York, NY, 295 pp.
  33. [33]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (1999), Emergy evaluation of the biosphere and natural capital, AMBIO, 28, 486-493.
  34. [34]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2011), Emergy measures of carrying capacity to evaluate economic investments, Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 22(5), 471-501.
  35. [35]  Rydberg, T. and Haden, A.C. (2006), Emergy evaluations of Denmark and Danish agriculture: assessing the influence of changing resource availability on the organization of agriculture and society, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 117, 145-158.
  36. [36]  Ulgiati, S. (2001), A comprehensive energy and economic assessment of biofuels: When "green" is not enough, Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 20(1), 71-106.
  37. [37]  Odum, H.T., Brown, M.T., and Brandt-Williams, S. (2000), Folio #1. Introduction and Global Budget. Handbook of Emergy Evaluation. A Compendium of Data for Emergy Computation, Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  38. [38]  Bastianoni, S., Marchettini, N., Panzeri, M., and Tiezzi, E. (2001), Sustainability assessment of a farm in the Chianti area (Italy), Journal of Cleaner Production, 9, 365-373.
  39. [39]  Bargigli, S and Ulgiati, S. (2003), Emergy and Life-cycle Assessment of Steel Production, In: Proceedings of the Second Biennial Emergy Conference, Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  40. [40]  Buranakarn, V. (1998), Evaluation of Recycling and Reuse of Building Materials Using the Emergy Analysis Method, Ph.D. thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  41. [41]  Odum, H.T., Wang, F.C., Alexander Jr., J.F., Gilliland, M., Miller, M., and Sendzimer, J. (1987), Energy Analysis of Enviromental Value, Center for Wetlands, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA. Publication #78-17.
  42. [42]  IBGE SIDRA. (2008), Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics - Sistema de Recuperação Automática. Banco de dados agregados, Available at: Last accessed: 04/15/2009.
  43. [43]  Brandt-Williams, S.L. (2002), Folio #4. (2nd printing). Emergy of Florida Agriculture. Handbook of Emergy Evaluation. A Compendium of Data for Emergy Computation, Center for Environmental Policy. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  44. [44]  Guillén, H.A. (2003), Environmental and Economic Aspects of Agro-Forestry and Agricultural Systems in Chiapas. Mexico, In: Proceedings of the Second Biennial Emergy Conference. Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  45. [45]  Odum, H.T., Odum, E.C., King, R. and Richardson, R. (1987), Ecology and Economy: Emergy Analysis and Public Policy in Texas, Energy systems in Texas and the United States, Policy research project report number, 78, The Board of Regents. University of Texas, Texas, USA.
  46. [46]  Lapp, C.W. (1991), Emergy Analysis of the Nuclear Power System in the United States, Class report, EES 6916. Environmental Engineering Sciences, under Dr. H. T. Odum supervision.
  47. [47]  Haukoss, D.S. (1995), Sustainable Architecture and Its Relationship to Industrialized Building, Ph.D. Thesis. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  48. [48]  Bargigli, S., Cialani, C., Raugei, M., and Ulgiati, S. (2004), Uneven Distribution of Benefits and Environmental Load,The Use of Environmental and Thermodynamic Indicators in Support of Fair and Sustainable Trade, In Ortega, E. & Ulgiati, S. (editors): Proceedings of IV Biennial International Workshop ※Advances in Energy Studies§, Unicamp, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 16-19, pp. 159-174.
  49. [49]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2011), Understanding the global economic crisis: A biophysical perspective, Ecological Modelling, 223, 4-13.
  50. [50]  Adler, R.F., Huffman, G.J., Chang, A., Ferraro, R., Xie, P.P., Janowiak, J., Rudolf, B., Schneider, U., Curtis, S., Bolvin, D., Gruber, A., Susskind, J., Arkin, P., and Nelkin, E. (2003), The version-2 global precipitation climatology project (GPCP) monthly precipitation analysis (1979-present), Journal of Hydrometeorology, 4, 1147-1167.
  51. [51]  Dai, A, Qian, T., Trenberth, K. E., and Milliman, J.D. (2009), Changes in Continental Freshwater Discharge from 1948 to 2004, Journal of Climate, 22, 2773-2792.
  52. [52]  Sverdrup, H.U., Johnson, M.W. and Fleming, R.H. (1942), The Oceans, Their Physics, Chemistry, and General Biology, by H. U. Sverdrup, Martin W. Johnson and Richard H. Fleming Prentice-Hall, inc., New York,
  53. [53]  CIA. (2008), Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Brazil and Italy, Available at: Last accessed: 06/03/2010.
  54. [54]  Vitorello, I., Hamza, V.M., and Pollack, H.N. (1980), Terrestrial heat flow in the Brazilian Highlands, Journal of Geophysical Research, 85(B7), 3778-3788. doi:10.1029/JB085iB07p03778.
  55. [55]  BNDO. (2012), Banco Nacional de Dados Oceanográficos (Brazilian Oceanographic Database), Available at: Last: accessed: 06/25/2012.
  56. [56]  New, M.G., Hulme, M., and Jones, P.D. (1999), Representing twentieth century space-time climate variability. Part I: Development of a 1961-1990 mean monthly terrestrial climatology, Journal of Climate, 12, 829-856.
  57. [57]  ANA. (2012), National Water Agency. Região Hidrográfica Amazônica, Available at: Last accessed: 06/05/2012.
  58. [58]  Braga, B., Rocha, O., and Tundisi, J.G. (1998), Dams and the environment: the Brazilian experience, Water Resources Development, 14(2), 126-139.
  59. [59]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2013), Emergy Systems: Coupling Humanity and Nature, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Forthcoming.
  60. [60]  Peterson, R.G. and Stramma, L. (1990), Upper-level circulation in the South Atlantic Ocean, Progress in Oceanography, 26, 1-73.
  61. [61]  Stramma, L., Ikeda, Y., and Peterson, R.G. (1990), Geostrophic transport in the Brazil Current region north of 20~S, Deep-Sea Research, 37(12), 1875-1886.
  62. [62]  Olson, D.B., Podesta, G.P., Evans, R.H., and Brown, O.D. (1988), Temporal variations in the separation of Brazil and Malvinas currents, Deep-Sea Research, 35(12), 1971-1990.
  63. [63]  Calil, L.M., Candella, R.N., and Fragoso, M.R. (2008), Estudo do fluxo da corrente do Brasil a partir de derivadores oceanicos, Congresso Brasileiro de Oceanografia 20-24th May 2008, Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil.
  64. [64]  Metzler, P.M., Glibert, P.M., Gaeta, S.A., and Ludlam, J.M. (1997), New and regenerated production in the South Atlantic off Brazil, Deep-Sea Research Part I - Oceanographic Research Papers, 44, 363-384.
  65. [65]  Odum, H.T. and Arding, J.E. (1991), EMergy Analysis of Shrimp Mariculture in Ecuador, Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, Working paper prepared for Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA.
  66. [66]  Penman, J., Gytarsky, M., Hiraishi, T., Krug, T., Kruger, D., Pipatti, R., Buendia, L., Miwa, K., Ngara, T., Tanabe, K. and Wagner, F. (2003), IPCC Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry, Annex 3A.1 Biomass Default Tables for Section 3.2. Forest Land. Available at: http://www.ipccnggip. Last accessed: 05/05/2009.
  67. [67]  FAO. (2005), Review of the state of world marine fishery resources. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 457, Rome, Italy.
  68. [68]  FAO. (2010), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Available at: Last accessed: 04/20/2011.
  69. [69]  PROJETO ECOAGRI. (2006), III Relatório FAPESP Processo: 2002/06685-0 Projeto Ecoagri Diagnóstico Ambiental da Agricultura em São Paulo: Bases para um desenvolvimento rural sustentável, Campinas, 15th may 2006, 131 pp. Available at: Last accessed: 02/02/2010.
  70. [70]  IEA. (2011), International Energy Agency, Available at: Last accessed: 08/09/2010.
  71. [71]  UN COMTRADE. (2010), United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database - Statistics Division, Available at: Last accessed: 05/05/2010.
  72. [72]  TACO. (2006), Brazilian table of food composition, version 2. Núcleo de Estudos e Pesquisas em Alimentação (NEPA - UNICAMP), Available at: Last accessed: 04/03/2009.
  73. [73]  Rodriguez, G.S., Kitamura, P.C., Sá, T.D. de A. and Vielhauer, K. (2003), Sustainability assessment of slahs-and-burn and fire-free agriculture in Northeastern Pará, Brazil. In: Brown, M. T.; H. T. Odum; D.Tilley & S. Ulgiati. (Ed.). Proceedings of the Second Biennial Emergy Conference. Center for Environmental Policy. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  74. [74]  IBAMA. (2007), Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Fishing Resources. Fishing Statistics 2007, Available at: Last accessed: 05/06/2010.
  75. [75]  UNICA. (2011), Brazilian Union of Sugarcane Industry Data and Quotations - Statistics. Available at:
  76. [76] Last accessed: 04/04/2011.
  77. [77]  Boustead, I. and Hancock, G.F. (1979), Handbook of Industrial Energy Analysis. John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  78. [78]  WRI. (2000), World Resources Institute. World Resources 1990-91. Oxford University Press, New York.
  79. [79]  Henning, D. (1989), Atlas of the Surface Heat Balance of the Continents, Gebruder Borntraeger, Berlin, 402 pp.
  80. [80]  Sclater, J.F., Taupart, G., and Galson, I.D. (1980), The heat flow through the oceanic and continental crust and the heat loss of the earth, Reviews of Geophysics and Space Physics, 18, 269-311.
  81. [81]  IIM. (1992), Istituto Idrografico Marina Militare Italiana, Tavole di marea 1991 (Tide Tables 1991), Genova, Italy.
  82. [82]  WRI. (2003), World Resources Institute, Data Source: The Global Maritime Boundaries Database (GMBD).
  83. [83]  Couper, A. (Editor). (1990), The Times Atlas of the Oceans, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York.
  84. [84]  OCEAN2012. (2010), New Economics Foundation. Fish dependence, London, United Kingdom.
  85. [85]  BP. (2010), British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy 2010, Available at: Last accessed: 06/03/2010.
  86. [86]  Ulgiati, S., Odum, H.T., and Bastianoni, S. (1993), Emergy Analysis of Italian Agricultural System: The Role of Energy Quality and Environmental Inputs, In: Bonati, L., Cosentino, U., Lasagni, M., Moro, G., Pitea, D., Schiraldi, A. (Eds.). Trends in Ecological Physical Chemistry. Elsevier, Amsterdam: 187-215.
  87. [87]  EIA. (2010), Energy Information Administration. International Energy Statistics, 2008, Available at: Last accessed: 05/05/2010.
  88. [88]  Zucaro, A. (2010), Assessing the Performance of Agricultural Systems Across Time and Spatial Scales. An extended LCA approach, PhD Thesis. University of Napoli "Parthenope". Napoli, Italy, 212 pp.
  89. [89]  BCB. (2011), Brazilian Central Bank. Historic Series of the Payment Balance, Available at: Last accessed: 11/09/2009.