Resource consumption of 1 Indian at 4T
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One Indian consumes just four tons of the world's four key resources – minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per capita per year, while citizens of the developed countries consume an average of 16 tons of the same.
A new United Nations Environment Programme report has warned that by 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of these key resources.
The report says that with the growth of both population and prosperity, especially in developing countries, the prospect of much higher resource consumption levels is "far beyond what is likely sustainable".
The report by the UNEP's International Resource Panel further says that already the world is running out of cheap and high quality sources of some essential materials such as oil, copper and gold, the supplies of which, in turn, require ever-rising volumes of fossil fuels and freshwater to produce.
Achieving a rate of resource productivity ("doing more with less") greater than the economic growth rate is the notion behind "decoupling," the panel says.
That goal, however, demands an urgent rethink of the links between resource use and economic prosperity, buttressed by a massive investment in technological, financial and social innovation, to at least freeze per capita consumption in wealthy countries and help developing nations follow a more sustainable path.
The trend towards urbanization may help as well, experts note, since cities allow for economies of scale and more efficient service provision.
Densely populated places consume fewer resources per capita than sparsely populated ones thanks to economies in such areas as water delivery, housing, waste management and recycling, energy use and transportation, they say.
"Decoupling makes sense on all the economic, social and environmental dials," says UN Under Secretary-General Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director.
"People believe environmental 'bads' are the price we must pay for economic 'goods.' However, we cannot, and need not, continue to act as if this trade-off is inevitable," he says.