WWF report shows earth resources over-stretched

From WWF:

[quote]Gland, Switzerland: The world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.

That is the stark warning contained in the latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report, the leading statement of the planet’s health. In addition global natural wealth and diversity continues to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress.

“The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its financial assets,” said WWF International Director-General James Leape, “but a more fundamental crisis looms ahead -- an ecological credit crunch caused by under-valuing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity.”

From WWF:

Gland, Switzerland: The world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.

That is the stark warning contained in the latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report, the leading statement of the planet’s health. In addition global natural wealth and diversity continues to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress.

“The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its financial assets,” said WWF International Director-General James Leape, “but a more fundamental crisis looms ahead -- an ecological credit crunch caused by under-valuing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity.”


The report, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN), shows more than three quarters of the world’s people now living in nations that are ecological debtors, where national consumption has outstripped their country’s biological capacity.

“Most of us are propping up our current lifestyles, and our economic growth, by drawing - and increasingly overdrawing - on the ecological capital of other parts of the world,” Mr Leape said.

“If our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.”

The report, published every two years, has since 1998 become widely accepted as an statement of earth's ability to remain a “living planet”. In 2008, it adds for the first time new measures of global, national and individual water footprint to existing measures of the Ecological Footprint of human demand on natural resources and the Living Planet Index, a measure of the state of nature.

The Living Planet Index, compiled by ZSL, shows a nearly 30 per cent decline since 1970 in nearly 5000 measured populations of 1,686 species. These dramatic losses in our natural wealth are being driven by deforestation and land conversion in the tropics (50% decline in Tropical LPI) and the impact of dams, diversions and climate change on freshwater species (35% decline). Pollution, over-fishing and destructive fishing in marine and coastal environments is also taking a considerable toll.

“We are acting ecologically in the same way as financial institutions have been behaving economically - seeking immediate gratification without due regard for the consequences,” said ZSL co-editor Jonathan Loh. “The consequences of a global ecological crisis are even graver than the current economic meltdown.”

Carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and land disturbance are the greatest component of humanity’s footprint, underlining the key threat of climate change. . The ecological footprint analysis, produced by GFN, shows that while global biocapacity – the area available to produce our resources and capture our emissions – is 2.1 average or “global” hectares per person, the per person footprint is 2.7 global ha.

“Continued ecological deficit spending will have severe economic consequences,” said GFN Executive Director Dr Mathis Wackernagel. “Resource limitations and ecosystem collapses would trigger massive stagflation with the value of investments plummeting, while food and energy costs skyrocket.”

The USA and China have the largest national footprints, each in total about 21 per cent of global biocapacity, but US citizens each require an average of 9.4 global ha (or nearly 4.5 Planet Earths if the global population had US consumption patterns) while Chinese citizens use on average 2.1 global ha per person (one Planet Earth).

Biocapacity is unevenly distributed, with eight nations – the United States, Brazil, Russia, China, India, Canada, Argentina and Australia - containing more than half the world total. Population and consumption patterns make three of these countries ecological debtors, with footprints greater than their national biocapacity - the United States (footprint 1.8 times national biocapacity), China (2.3 times) and India ( 2.2 times).

This can be contrasted with the Congo with the seventh highest per person biocapacity of 13.9 global ha per person and an average footprint of just 0.5 global ha per person – but facing a future of degrading biocapacity from deforestation and increased demands from a rising population and export pressures.

The new water footprint measures show up the significance of water traded in the form of commodities with, for example, a cotton T-shirt requiring 2,900 litres of water in its production. On average, each person consumes 1.24 million litres (about half an Olympic swimming pool) of water a year, but this varies from 2.48 million litres per person a year (USA) to 619,000 litres per capita annually (Yemen).

“Around 50 countries are currently facing moderate or severe water stress and the number of people suffering from year-round or seasonal water shortages is expected to increase as a result of climate change,” the report finds.

“These Living Planet measures serve as clear and robust signposts to what needs to be done,” said Mr Leape. “It is our hope that in years to come we will be reporting increases in the Living Planet Index, an ecological footprint coming down in shoe sizes and water becoming more rather than less available in more places.”

The report suggests some key “sustainability wedges” which if combined could stabilise and reverse the worsening slide into ecological debt and enduring damage to global support systems. For the single most important challenge – climate change – the report shows that a range of efficiency, renewable and low emissions “wedges” could meet projected energy demands to 2050 with reductions in carbon emissions of 60 to 80 per cent.

“If humanity has the will, it has the ways to live within the means of the planet, but we must recognize that the ecological credit crunch will require even bolder action than that now being mustered for the financial crisis” Mr Leape said.

Living Planet analysis shows looming ecological credit crunch

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Comment I made on WWF page with above news release:

Sadly, seems Dying Planet Report would be a more apposite title.
- I expect at least a few people involved in report production have said as much. As with so much re environment, we now have more facts, more science saying the situation is bad and worsening, need strong action. Getting message out, prompting action, requires more. Emotional side of messages key, suggests Guerilla PR, which I read lately - I think may well be true. Been thinking this, too, re air pollution here in Hong Kong: greenie eggheads know facts, yet public and government not moved to powerful action. Anyway, I'll post this news item to my website, will try n do more re pr for the planet.

Another year, another report, and same scary conclusions as Earth's resources way over-stretched by us humans. WWF press release:

Tropics in decline as natural resources exhausted at alarming rate – WWF 2010 Living Planet report

 

Gland, Switzerland – New analysis shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity’s demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain, reveals the 2010 edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report – the leading survey of the planet’s health.

 

The biennial report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, uses the global Living Planet Index as a measure of the health of almost 8,000 populations of more than 2,500 species. The global Index shows a decrease by 30 per cent since 1970, with the tropics hardest hit showing a 60 per cent decline in less than 40 years.

 

“There is an alarming rate of biodiversity loss in low-income, often tropical countries while the developed world is living in a false paradise, fuelled by excessive consumption and high carbon emissions,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.
 

While the report shows some promising recovery by species’ populations in temperate areas, thanks in part to greater conservation efforts and improvements in pollution and waste control, tracked populations of freshwater tropical species have fallen by nearly 70 per cent – greater than any species’ decline measured on land or in our oceans.

 

“Species are the foundation of ecosystems,” said Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Programme Director with the Zoological Society of London. “Healthy ecosystems form the basis of all we have – lose them and we destroy our life support system.”

 

The Ecological Footprint, one of the indicators used in the report, shows that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we’re using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. If we continue living beyond the Earth’s limits, by 2030 we’ll need the equivalent of two planets’ productive capacity to meet our annual demands.

 

"The report shows that continuing of the current consumption trends would lead us to the point of no return,” added Leape. “4.5 Earths would be required to support a global population living like an average resident of the of the US."

 

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 31 OECD countries, which include the world’s richest economies, account for nearly 40 per cent of the global footprint. While there are twice as many people living in BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – as there are in OECD countries, the report shows the current rate of per-person footprint of the BRIC countries puts them on a trajectory to overtake the OECD bloc if they follow same development path.

 

"Countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies at risk,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President of the Global Footprint Network.“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 be the leaders in a resource-constrained world."

 

New analysis in the report also shows that the steepest decline in biodiversity falls in low-income countries, with a nearly 60 per cent decline in less than 40 years.

 

The biggest footprint is found in high-income countries, on average five times that of low-income countries, which suggests unsustainable consumption in wealthier nations rests largely on depleting the natural resources of poorer, often still resource rich tropical countries.

 

The Living Planet Report also shows that a high footprint and high level of consumption, which often comes at the cost of others, is not reflected in a higher level of development. The UN Human Development Index, which looks at life expectancy, income and educational attainment, can be high in countries with moderate footprint.

 

The Report outlines solutions needed to ensure the Earth can sustain a global population projected to pass nine billion in 2050, and points to choices in diet and energy consumption as critical to reducing footprint, as well as improved efforts to valueand invest in our natural capital.

 

“The challenge posed by the Living Planet Report is clear,” said Leape. “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."