A report published by the United Nations Environment Programme yesterday (12 May) puts some ominous numbers behind its message that humanity needs to reduce the rate at which it churns through natural resources.
Between1900 to 2000, the rate at which people consume minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass roughly doubled. In the developed world, people now use roughly 16 tons of natural resources per year (and in some countries, 40 tons). In contrast. the average person in India consumes just 4 tons per year.
The report projects three scenarios to 2050: a tripling of total annual consumption if the developing world catches up with the developed world’s ‘metabolic rate’; a 40% rise (from 2000) if everyone converges on around 8 tons per person per year; and an (unrealistic) flat line in consumption if rates fall.
The study – just the latest in calls for transitions to a greener, more sustainable economy – urges nations to ‘decouple’ their economic growth from increasing use of natural resources. People should ‘do more with less’, it says. Of course, as raw materials get scarcer, they will become more expensive. So those countries which have already thought about ‘doing more with less’ will be ahead of the game, the report points out.