Demand for natural resources outstrips supply

20th August 2013

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The Earth's resources will be consumed twice as fast as they can be replenished by 2050, warns think tank as Earth Overshoot Day arrives two days earlier than in 2012

Each year the Global Footprint Network calculates when consumption of the world’s ecological resources, including ecosystems services such as carbon sequestration, surpass the amount the Earth can produce in one year.

As resource consumption continues to grow that tipping point has been reached today, 20 August 2013, two days earlier than in 2012. In 2003, Earth Overshoot Day fell on 22 September and in 1993 it was 21 October.

According to the Global Footprint Network, the world’s population is already using 1.5 times the amount of resources than can be generated by the Earth in a year, and that humanity is “on track to require the resources of two planets well before 2050”.

The annual assessment of consumption patterns confirms that demand for resources is much greater in developed countries. Europeans, for example, are consuming natural resources at more than 2.5 times the rate at which they can be generated and in the US it is more than 4 times.

The research also lists resource consumption against production in individual countries, revealing that the UK uses the equivalent of 4.5 times the amount of resources it can generate.

“Nature is the basis of our wellbeing and our prosperity – but we are using up way too much of the finite resources available on this planet,” commented Tony Long, director of WWF’s European policy office.

“If every country in the world was to consume natural resources in the same way as an average European, then we would need 2.66 planets to sustain our current consumption levels.”

To calculate Earth Overshoot Day the network assesses how much land and sea is needed to produce all the resources that humans consume and to absorb the waste they generate each year. According to its latest calculations, more than 50% of humanity’s total ecological footprint is made up of its carbon footprint.

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