Living Planet Report: Humanity Now Needs 1.5 Earths

Human demand outstripping nature's regenerative capacity at an alarming rate


Deforestation continues at an alarming rate
Photo: Johannes Barth / pixelio.de
Oakland, California -- Oct 13, 2010 -- Humanity is now using resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate 50 percent faster than the Earth can sustain, reveals the 2010 edition of the Living Planet Report -- the leading survey of the planet's health.

The biennial report, produced by WWF in collaboration with Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London, relates the Living Planet Index, a measure of the health of the world's biodiversity, to the Ecological Footprint, a measure of human demand on the Earth's natural resources.

Coming as the UN-declared International Year for Biodiversity draws toward a close, the report details alarming biodiversity declines along with a rapid escalation of human demand that is far outstripping nature's regenerative capacity. The findings are particularly relevant as leaders of the world's governments prepare to meet in Nagoya, Japan on October 18th to set a new agenda for addressing biodiversity loss.

"The dwindling health of the world's species is no surprise considering how much of nature's services humanity is taking for its own use," said Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network. "Ultimately, enabling biodiversity to thrive will require bringing human demand for nature's services down to a level Earth can sustainably supply."

The Ecological Footprint tracks human demand on ecological services against nature's regenerative capacity (biocapacity) the same way a bank statement tracks expenditures against income. The most recent figures show that in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, humanity used the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support its activities. Put another way, it now takes a year and six months for the Earth to absorb the CO2 emissions and regenerate the renewable resources that people use in one year.

Even with modest UN projections for population growth, consumption and climate change, by 2030 humanity will need the capacity of two Earths to absorb carbon dioxide waste and keep up with natural resource consumption.

"The human appetite for resources may be unlimited, but the planet's ability to sustain these needs is finite," said Wackernagel. "As our rising demand on ecological services pushes our natural systems to the breaking point, we are not only putting other species at risk, we are jeopardizing our own livelihoods and well-being."

Carbon is a major culprit in driving the planet to ecological overdraft. An alarming 11-fold increase in our carbon Footprint over the last five decades means carbon now accounts for more than half the global Ecological Footprint.

The top 10 countries with the biggest Ecological Footprint per person are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Denmark, Belgium, United States, Estonia, Canada, Australia, Kuwait and Ireland. The report finds the 31 OECD countries, which include the world's highest-income nations, account for nearly 40 per cent of the global Footprint. But the report also shows the "BRIC" countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which have a faster-growing Footprint, on a trajectory to overtake the OECD bloc if they follow the same development path.

"Countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies at risk," Wackernagel said. "Those countries that are able to provide the highest quality of life on the lowest amount of ecological demand will not only serve the global interest, they will have the most resilient economies in a resource-constrained world."

If everyone in the world lived like a resident of the United Arab Emirates, which has the world's highest per capita Footprint, we would need the equivalent of 6 planets to regenerate our resources and absorb the CO2 emissions. If everyone lived like a resident of the United States, we would need the resources of 4.5. Countries on the other end of the spectrum such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh have per capita Footprints that, in many cases, are too small to provide for basic needs. These countries may well need to increase their access to resources if they are to bring large segments of the population out of poverty.

The biggest Footprints are found in high-income countries, but the Living Planet Report also shows that a high Footprint and high level of consumption is not always reflected in a higher level of development. An analysis of Ecological Footprint compared to the UN Human Development Index, which looks at life expectancy, income and education, shows significant variation in Footprint among countries that have achieved what the UN deems as high human development.

The Report outlines solutions needed to ensure the Earth can sustain a global population many expect will exceed nine billion in 2050. It points to choices in diet and energy consumption as critical to reducing Footprint, as well as improved efforts to value and invest in our natural capital.

"The challenge posed by the Living Planet Report is clear," said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. "Somehow we need to find a way to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly prosperous population within the resources of this one planet. All of us have to find a way to make better choices in what we consume and how we produce and use energy."

Download the Living Planet Report 2010:
http://www.footprintnetwork.org
/press/LPR2010.pdf


About GFN:


The Global Footprint Network promotes a sustainable economy by advancing the Ecological Footprint, a tool that makes sustainability measurable. Together with its partners, the network coordinates research, develops methodological standards, and provides decision makers with robust resource accounts to help the human economy operate within the Earth's ecological limits.www.footprintnetwork.org

About WWF:

WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit www.panda.org/media for latest news and media resources.

About ZSL:

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over forty countries worldwide.www.zsl.org


For further information:


GFN
: Nicole Freeling, Communications Manager,nicole@footprintnetwork.org; tel: +1 510 839-8879 x 302; mob: +1 415 577-9282

WWF:Natalia Reiter, Media officer,nreiter@wwfint.org, tel; +41 22 3649550, mob; +41 798738099

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