Humans need an extra planet at current rate of resource depletion, study finds

According to the World Wildlife Fund‘s annual Living Planet report, humans are using Earth’s resources at a rate 1.5 times  greater than the rate of replenishment.

 “During the 1970s, humanity as a whole passed the point at which the annual Ecological Footprint matched the Earth’s annual biocapacity. This situation is called “ecological overshoot”, and has continued since then. An overshoot of 50 percent means it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the renewable resources that people used in 2007 and absorb CO2 waste,” reads the report published by the WWF.

The ecological footprint  is measured according to six main factors – carbon, grazing, forest, fishing, cropland and built-up land. The biocapacity is the capacity of an area to provide resources and absorb wastes; it is expressed in units called global hectares (gha), with 1gha representing the productive capacity of 1ha of land at world average productivity.

“People required 18.2 billion hectares (45 billion acres) of land by 2008, with 12 billion productive hectares available. About 55 percent of land needed was for forest to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.”

Not every country was responsible for the same biocapacity deficit, though. The top ranking countries in order of the ecological footprint produced per-capita are Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Denmark, the United States and Belgium. Surprisingly, no China.

The same study reports about 28 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity was lost from 1970 to 2008, alone.  More in depth, the report showed that biodiversity in the tropics declined by 61 percent.

In the report WWF International Director General Jim Leape said, “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.”

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  • Brian Gabriel

    This really is a fascinating development.  Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel estimates that the average American consumes 32x the amount of oil and metal as Kenyans for example.  By 2050, its estimated that there will be around 9 billion people on earth.  If everyone on earth were to theoretically consume as much as the average American consumes today, worldwide consumption would increase 12X above our current levels!  This is like the earth supporting 72 billion people!  Read more about Diamond’s analysis here: 
    Clearly our planet cannot support all of its citizens living first-class lifestyles.  Some of my upcoming book, Rush: Science and Technology in the Acceleration age, discusses the technological innovations born of our current struggles in sustaining a growing and increasingly affluent earth population.  Please visit my website for more information.

  • tibi puiu

    Brian, indeed this is a dire issue of great worldwide interest. Thank you for the links and best of luck with your new book!