World Resource Consumption May Triple by 2050, UN Report Warns

A new UN report warns that humans could triple the natural resources they consume by 2050 unless economic growth is “decoupled” from current consumption rates. In developed nations, individuals consume an average of 16 tons per capita of minerals, ores, fossil fuels, and biomass each year, and as much as 40 or more tons per capita in some nations, according to the report by the UN Environmental Program’s International Resources Panel. That rate doubled from 1900 to 2000. By comparison, the average person in India consumes about 4 tons annually. Warning that global population growth and rising economic prosperity could drive resource consumption “far beyond what is likely sustainable,” the report says nations must improve the rate of resource productivity or do more with less, particularly as many resources are already being depleted at a significant rate. The panel also suggests more investment in technological, financial, and social innovation to at least freeze per capita consumption.