WWF says humans living far beyond planet's means

Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets’ worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.

It also said in a two-yearly report that populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution, clearing of forests and overfishing.

“We are in serious ecological overshoot, consuming resources faster than the Earth can replace them,” WWF director General James Leape said in the WWF’s 2006 Living Planet Report.

People in the United Arab Emirates were placing most stress per capita on the planet ahead of those in the United States, Finland and Canada, the report said.

It said that everyone would have to change lifestyles—cutting use of fossil fuels and improving management of everything from farming to fisheries. “We must all do more,” Leape said.

The report said humans’s “ecological footprint”—the demand people place on the natural world—was 25% greater than the planet’s annual ability to provide everything from food to energy and recycle all human waste in 2003.

In the previous report, the 2001 overshoot was 21%.

“On current projections humanity will be using two planets’ worth of natural resources by 2050—if those resources have not run out by then,” it said.

“People are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources.”

Rising population

“Humanity’s footprint has more than tripled between 1961 and 2003,” it said. Consumption has outpaced a surge in the world’s population, to 6,5-billion from 3-billion in 1960.
UN projections show a surge to 9-billion people around 2050.

It said that the footprint from use of fossil fuels, whose heat-trapping emissions are widely blamed for pushing up world temperatures, was the fastest-growing cause of strain.

The WWF report also said that an index tracking 1 300 vetebrate species—birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals—showed that populations had fallen for most by about 30% because of factors including a loss of habitats to farms.

Among species most under pressure included the swordfish and the South African Cape Vulture. Those bucking the trend included rising populations of the Javan rhinoceros and the northern hairy-nosed wombat in Australia. - Reuters

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