The amount of primary materials extracted from the earth has tripled in the past four decades, research has found.
The International Resource Panel, which is part of UNEP, warned that the high rate of extraction was having a severe impact on human health and quality of life, causing shortages of critical materials and increasing risk of conflict.
The amount of primary materials extracted worldwide rose from 22 billion tonnes in 1970 to 70 billion tonnes in 2010, with the richest countries consuming 10 times as many materials on average as the poorest, and twice as much as the world average, according to its report. If extraction continues to grow at current rates, it will reach 180 billion tonnes by 2050.
Global material efficiency has declined since 1990. Because production has shifted from material-efficient economies, such as Japan and Europe, to less efficient ones, such as China and India, the world economy now needs more material per unit of GDP than it did at the turn of the century. Material use must be decoupled from economic growth, the report concluded.