The world is not enough: soon we’ll need three planet Earths

Earth will no longer be able to sustain population by 2030, report warns
Earth will no longer be able to sustain population by 2030, report warns
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HUMANS are using so many resources that by 2030 even an extra planet will not be enough to sustain our demands, a report has warned.

View the Living Planet 2012 report in full

Green group the WWF concludes in its Living Planet Report 2012 that mankind is already living as though we have one and a half planets at our disposal.

By 2030 even having two planets at our disposal will not be enough and if lifestyles do not change, by 2050 we would need almost three.

The report, compiled every two years, also highlights that wildlife populations around the world have declined by almost a third (30 per cent) in the past four decades, as they are put under pressure from human demand for resources.

Tropical species have suffered the most, seeing populations tumble by 60 per cent since 1970, according to the study, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Global Footprint Network.

Jim Leape, director general of WWF International, said: “We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal.

“We are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide, and unless we change course that number will grow very fast – by 2030, even two planets will not be enough.”

The ecological footprint of humans on the planet was calculated by measuring use of carbon dioxide, cropland, grazing land, forests, fish stocks and land for towns and cities. More than half our ecological footprint is caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

The study highlighted that rich nations have a far bigger footprint than poorer countries, with Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, the United States, Belgium, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Ireland topping the list.

The UK is 27th in the global rankings, a five-place rise from the last report two years ago.

If we all lived like the average person in America we would need four planets, the report spells out.

Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “We are continuing to consume resources faster than the planet can provide, with our current path demanding potentially double those the planet can sustain by 2030.

“Unless we act now, our economic security and livelihoods will be threatened as resources become more scarce and natural systems further degraded, dramatically pushing up the price of food, raw materials and other key commodities.”

He said the report on the state of the planet reveals the “true scale of the challenge” facing global leaders, who will meet in Rio de Janeiro next month to discuss the future for sustainable development.

He added that there are actions Scots could take to help, such as cutting our energy use, changing our diets and reducing waste.

He argued it was crucial to establish a “one planet economy focused around goals of living within environmental limits, well-being and equity rather than simply GDP growth”.

The report will be launched today from the International Space Station by WWF Ambassador and Dutch Astronaut, André Kuipers.

He will say: “We only have one Earth. From up here I can see humanity’s footprint, including forest fires, air pollution and erosion.”

Professor Tim Blackburn, director of the Institute of Zoology at ZSL, said: “We are living in a planet in crisis.”

He said the Living Planet report monitored the Earth’s “natural capital” in the same way the FTSE 100 tracked the stock market, and was showing declines that if they occurred in the financial sphere would cause global panic.

And he said: “Nature is more important than money. Humanity can live without money, but we can’t live without nature and the essential services it provides.”

View the Living Planet 2012 report in full