Humans are quickly burning through Earth’s resources, UN report warns
From 1970 to 2017, the world’s population grew from 3.7 billion to 7.5 billion, and global domestic product increased four times in the same time frame.
More people equals more demand on natural resources like water, agricultural land, and wood, and the report shows that by 2017, extraction of resources to meet global demand grew from 27 billion tons per year to 92 billion tons.
What’s even more concerning is that as population increases and advances in health and technology improve quality of life, the report predicts that by 2060, our extraction of resources will double.
In high-income countries alone, each person uses around 9.8 tons of materials and resources.
“The Global Resources Outlook shows that we are ploughing through this planet’s finite resources as if there is no tomorrow, causing climate change and biodiversity loss along the way,” said Joyce Msuya, the Acting Executive Director of UN Environment. “Frankly, there will be no tomorrow for many people unless we stop.”
The report was put together by the UN’s International Resource Panel, and the authors compared resource extraction to resource use over the decades.
Data from historical trends were reviewed and analyzed for the study, and the International Resource Panel was able to predict resource extraction rates up until 2060.
By 2060, resource use could grow as much 110 percent which would shrink forests and other key habitats.
The demand for natural resources is a significant driver of climate change and biodiversity loss both through urban expansion as well as mining, logging, fishing, and manufacturing operations.
As we strip away more resources and emit more greenhouse gasses in the process, we are contributing to the snowball effect of climate change, and the UN report calls for a major overhaul of policies dictating resource conservation and use.
“The extraction and processing of materials, fuels, and food make up about half of total global greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90 percent of biodiversity loss and water stress,” the report reads.
If resource extraction continues on its current trends, greenhouse gas emissions could increase by 43 percent.
Sustainability and resource efficiency are required going forward to protect resources and combat climate change.
The report adds that if smarter and greener measures are undertaken, resource use could be slowed and managed in a better way to meet future global demands.
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