India needs two countries like itself to sustain current consumption levels

New Delhi, VIDYA VENKAT: Global consumption of natural resources has reached dangerously unsustainable levels. On August 13, the earth would have used up its budget of available natural resources, mainly land, water and forests, for the entire year.

The planet first went into a consumption overshoot in the early 1970s. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

Observed as ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, this day marks humanity’s ecological footprint exceeding what the earth can regenerate this year. Every year the Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days in that year for which the earth can support humanity’s ecological footprint with its available natural resources. The remainder of the year corresponds to the global overshoot.

Derek Eaton, vice-president of Research with the Global Footprint Network in Geneva, told The Hindu that Indians have consistently had one of the lowest per capita ecological footprint. Historically, cropland and forest footprint made for the largest ecological footprints until the late 1980s when carbon started outgrowing them. Today, cropland (38 per cent) and carbon (42 per cent) together makes up for 80 per cent of India’s ecological footprint. While India’s ecological footprint is way below that of industrialised and developed nations, its current consumption rates do exceed its biocapacity. At current consumption levels, Indians would need two countries of its size to sustain itself.

According to WWF, in 2000, Earth Overshoot Day fell in the month of October, but over the last decade it has moved to an earlier date in August. And given the rate at which increasing global consumption and population has been exerting pressure on available natural resources, this day would eventually move to May 8, WWF says. The planet first went into a consumption overshoot in the early 1970s.

The Living Planet Report 2014 released by WWF, found that humanity’s demand on the planet is over 50 per cent larger than what nature can renew. In other words it would take1.5 earths to produce the resources necessary to support our current levels of demand. Despite being the third largest green house gas emitter in the world, India is better placed than other developing and developed countries, such as China and the UK, which would require almost three such countries of its size to sustain its consumption. Japan would need 5.5 countries of its own size to meet its consumption requirements.

Carbon emissions continue pushing the ecological footprint further above the planet’s annual budget. Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled between 1961 and 1973, which is when the world went into ecological overshoot.

The Hindu