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    Dienstag, 15. Mai 2012

    Living Planet Report 2012: We Are Using One and a Half Planets

    Our planet is being harmed and the damage can even be seen from space. This is how the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) presented the Living Planet Report 2012 from the International Space Station (ISS). According to the report, it takes our planet one and a half years to replace the natural resources humanity uses in a year.

    The WWF launched the new Living Planet Report from the ISS, 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface. The conclusion was that we are currently consuming 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide. By 2030, we will need two planets to satisfy our demands; by 2050 nearly three.

    More than 30 percent of the species that live on our planet have vanished since 1970. The decrease of biodiversity in the tropics is particularly drastic. As indicated by the Living Planet Report, a lot of species have recovered in northern countries. This is a global environmental report concerning the health of our planet. Published by the WWF every two years, the report addresses biodiversity, our ecological footprint and water consumption.

    According to Georg Scattolin of the Austrian WWF, the state of our planet is critical. However, even by 2050 we should manage to provide nine billion people with enough food, energy and water to live comfortably. In order to achieve this, we will have to make a lot of changes to our way of life and our economic system.


    More than 9,000 populations of nearly 2,700 vertebrate species were studied for the report, which is around 1,000 more than in the 2010 report. The ‘Living Planet Index’ evaluates the decrease in worldwide biodiversity. This amounts to a 30 percent decrease since 1970 and even a 60 percent decrease on average in the tropics. The loss is particularly high in the tropical rivers where nearly three quarters of the species have seen their populations dwindle or vanish altogether. The loss of biodiversity is caused by the destruction of the natural habitat of many plants and animals, environmental pollution, climate change as well as invasive species. Invasive species suppress other native species and are introduced into new regions as a consequence of worldwide commerce. Since 1970, only northern countries have seen their biodiversity increase by 30 percent. To this end, environmental and ecosystem conservation are having positive effects.

    Ecological Footprint

    In the U.S.A., the ecological footprint is about five times larger than in the poorest states of Africa. Mankind’s ecological footprint currently amounts to 18 billion global hectares or 2.7 hectares per person. However, the capacity of our planet is only 12 billion hectares or 1.8 hectares per person. Altogether, humanity is consuming 50 percent too much. Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark and the U.S.A. have the biggest footprints per capita. In contrast, the occupied Palestinian areas, East Timor, Afghanistan, Haiti and Eritrea represent the opposite end of the spectrum.

    Overexploitation of Nature

    The overexploitation of nature in tropical countries has particularly negative effects. Greenhouse gas emissions are the biggest factor (55 percent) affecting the ecological footprint of the world and have risen to eleven times the emission rate since 1961. Fishing rates have increased fivefold worldwide within the last 50 years. Currently, the job security for the 520 million people worldwide dependent on the fishing industry seems uncertain. The forests are also shrinking continuously: 130, 000 square kilometers of forest land dwindle away per year because of the conversion to pasture and farm land. This is equivalent to about 1.5 times the area of Austria. Contributing to climate change of up to 20 percent, deforestation is the biggest factor for climate change following coal mining and oil production. Without any forest protection measures our planet will have lost forest areas equivalent to the area of the Congo, Peru and Papua New Guinea by 2050. These forest areas total the size of 2.3 million square kilometers, which is more than half of all 27 EU nations combined.

    Water Shortage

    We are draining our planet more and more. Currently, 500 million people are already suffering from the negative effects of dams and other kinds of river regulations. 900 million people do not have clean drinking water and 2.7 billion people do not have access to sanitary facilities. 92 percent of our industrial water is consumed by the agricultural sector. In 2025, 5.5 billion people will be struggling due to water shortages. Of the 160 rivers worldwide which are longer than 1,000 kilometers, only 50 are still able to flow freely. Two million tons of toxic waste contaminate the oceans and rivers of our planet every year. Almost 200 liters of water are used to produce one cup of coffee with milk and sugar. India, China and the U.S.A. have the biggest water footprint worldwide.

    Solutions for the Future

    By 2050, our planet will have to provide for nine billion people. George Scattolin of WWF Austria says that we can ensure that all people are provided with enough food, water and energy. Nevertheless, the investments in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy have increased more than fivefold since 2004. Moreover, the WWF suggests an improvement in the protection of the ecosystems, more efficient production methods and a change of consumption patterns. The profit of some of these is to be partly used for nature conservation and to promote ecological production methods. The greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 80 percent by 2050 to prevent worldwide extinction of species. The protection of our oceans and rivers also needs to have absolute priority. Furthermore, natural resources must also be included in the international financial system calculations. The WWF warns that nature finally has to have a price and that without these drastic global measures the 21st century will become a century of natural disasters.

    The Living Planet Report

    New data and more exact measuring methods in the latest report show that humanity has been using more resources since the 1970s than our planet can cope with. Scattolin warns that in 2006 it was estimated that we would not use two planets earlier than 2050. The latest report shows, that we will already reach that condition in 2030, which means 20 years earlier. The LPR, which is published in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN), has been assessing the ecological footprint of humanity in relation to biocapacity, biodiversity and the water consumption of the world’s nations since 1998. The basis of the complicated calculations are pastures, farm lands, cultivated area, forests, fishing grounds and the use of fossil fuels.

    Presentation from outer Space

    For the first time, the report was presented from the ISS by the Dutch astronaut André Kuipers in the course of his ESA-mission. The ESA (European Space Agency) has been the partner of the Living Planet Report since 2012. In his message from the ISS, Kuipers warned that he could see the effects that are described in the Living Planet Report from outer space – forest fires, air pollution and erosion. He went on to  say that we only have this one planet and that we have to preserve it for ourselves and future generations.

    Source: WWF Austria

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