Balancing Growth and Green: How Industrial Land Expansion Influences Economic and Environmental Outcomes

We found that industrial land expansion was the primary driver of economic growth and emissions in developing regions. In contrast, developed regions exhibited a reduced impact, with a shift towards other drivers of economic growth, such as education.
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Urban landscapes continuously evolve, with industrial land as a cornerstone for economic progress and industrial operations. As urbanization accelerates globally, the demand for industrial spaces—home to manufacturing facilities and warehouses—grows. However, this expansion comes with significant environmental costs, particularly in carbon dioxide emissions.

Our recent communications earth & environment article (Yoo et al., 2024) highlights how expanding industrial land disproportionately affects economic growth and carbon emissions in developing versus developed regions. In developing areas, industrial land expansion is a primary driver of economic advancement but also substantially increases carbon emissions. In contrast, developed regions are witnessing a shift in economic drivers towards sectors like education, diminishing the role of industrial expansion.

Unveiling Industrial Growth Through Satellite Images and AI Techniques

We developed a cutting-edge methodology to analyze these trends using high-resolution (30m) satellite imagery combined with machine learning techniques. This approach allowed us to map urban industrial areas across ten key countries, revealing detailed industrial land use patterns from 2000 to 2019. Notably, China's industrial regions have expanded significantly, surpassing those in the United States by 2019.

Diverse Economic Impacts

Our analysis shows that industrial land per capita in developing regions contributes significantly to economic growth—about 31% compared to 8% in developed countries. In these developing areas, the influence of industrial land on GDP surpasses even that of educational advancements. However, education plays a more critical role in developed regions, influencing around 35% of economic outcomes.

Varied Contributions to Carbon Emissions

The study also sheds light on carbon emissions, noting a stark contrast in their association with industrial land expansion between developed and developing regions. In the latter, the impact of industrial land on per capita carbon emissions is remarkably high, accounting for 55% of emissions compared to other factors.

Strategic Recommendations for Policymakers

Our findings underscore the need for nuanced industrial land management strategies tailored to different development stages. For developing regions, it is crucial to balance industrial expansion with environmental sustainability. This involves adopting cleaner energy sources and advancing low-carbon technologies to mitigate the adverse effects of increased carbon emissions.

Conversely, developed regions should optimize existing industrial land and foster technical innovation driven by human capital. This approach enhances economic output and helps decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.

As we move forward, policymakers must implement balanced strategies that foster economic growth while addressing the urgent challenges of climate change. Our study provides a foundation for understanding the complex dynamics and crafting policies that ensure sustainable development across different global regions.

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Environmental Sciences
Physical Sciences > Earth and Environmental Sciences > Environmental Sciences
Environmental Geography
Physical Sciences > Earth and Environmental Sciences > Geography > Physical Geography > Environmental Geography
Remote Sensing/Photogrammetry
Mathematics and Computing > Computer Science > Computer and Information Systems Applications > Geographical Information System > Remote Sensing/Photogrammetry
Sustainability
Physical Sciences > Earth and Environmental Sciences > Environmental Sciences > Sustainability

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