The amount of primary materials extracted from the Earth has tripled in the last four decades, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP), Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity.
Highlights the report: “Driven by rising consumption fuelled by a growing middle class, the dramatic increase in the use of fossil fuels, metals and other materials will intensify climate change, increase air pollution, reduce biodiversity and ultimately lead to the depletion of natural resources.”
The amount of primary materials extracted from the Earth rose from 22-billion tonnes in 1970 to a staggering 70-billion tonnes in 2010, with the richest countries consuming on average 10 times as many materials as the poorest countries and twice as much as the world average.
At the rate material is being extracted, in the report, IRP warns that the situation is unsustainable and suggests measures such as investment in research and development, and better public policing and financing. Over and above, it recommends putting a price on primary materials at extraction in order to reflect the social and environmental costs of resource extraction. The extra funds generated could then be invested in R&D in resource intensive sectors of the economy.
Download a copy of the report here.