Bloomberg News

Another Earth Needed to Meet Humans’ Demand for Resources

May 15, 2012

View of the Pantanal from the Cidade de Pedra viewpoint in the Chapada dos Guimaraes national park, Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Photographer: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/GettyImages

View of the Pantanal from the Cidade de Pedra viewpoint in the Chapada dos Guimaraes national park, Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Photographer: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/GettyImages

Humans are using resources at such a pace they need another world to meet demand for land to grow crops and forests and raise animals, WWF International said.

People required 18.2 billion hectares (45 billion acres) of land by 2008, with 12 billion productive hectares available, WWF said today in its biennial Living Planet report. About 55 percent of land needed was for forest to absorb carbon dioxide emissions. The Earth takes one and a half years to regenerate natural resources used annually by human inhabitants, WWF said.

“We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal,” WWF International Director General Jim Leape said in the report. “We are using 50 percent 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 report, which urges humanity to cut waste and use food, energy and water more sustainably, is published before a United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro next month where leaders from around the world will debate how governments can eradicate poverty while also halting the degradation of the environment.

The average person required 2.7 so-called global hectares, or biologically productive hectares, to produce the resources they consumed in 2008, the most recent data available, according to the report. That compares with the Earth’s so-called bio- capacity of 1.8 hectares per person, it said. The UN has said the world’s human population passed 7 billion in October.

Overdrawn Account

National variations ranged from almost 12 hectares a person in Qatar, which will host this year’s round of UN climate treaty talks, to less than 1 hectare in the Palestinian territories. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark and the U.S. followed Qatar as the biggest per-capita users of resources.

“Similar to overdrawing a bank account, eventually the resources will be depleted,” the study’s authors wrote. “At current consumption rates some ecosystems will collapse even before the resource is completely gone.”

Not all the nations with the biggest ecological footprints are developed or oil-rich. Mongolia ranked 15th of the more than 140 nations surveyed because of the large amount of grazing land it uses for its cattle. Uruguay was 20th for the same reason.

The study also found 28 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity was lost from 1970 to 2008. The measure, which gauges the abundance of 2,688 animal species in different parts of the world, showed that biodiversity in the tropics declined by 61 percent, and in temperate regions it increased by 31 percent.

The paper was prepared by WWF International along with the Oakland, California-based Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London. WWF, based in Gland, Switzerland, is known as the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net.


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