Resources at risk

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Humanity’s consumption of limited raw materials is accelerating. 

Resources at risk

In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day fell on the 8th of August. It’s the date each year from which humanity lives on credit – when worldwide use of natural resources has exhausted what the planet can provide in 365 days. In 2000, the threshold came on the 25th of September. In 1971, on December 24th.

At current rates of consumption, oil could be used up within the next 60 years, and natural gas within half a century. How much this shortage will impact lives depends on whether we step up our use of renewable energy. These forms of energy are developing fast, but it takes raw materials to generate them, too.

Not all resources can be easily replaced. It will be hard, for example, to find substitutes for Rare Earth Elements. These 17 metals are used to make a range of goods including cell phones, missiles and wind turbines. Mining these elements causes high levels of pollution, and they are almost exclusively produced by China, whose environmental requirements are looser than those of other countries with large reserves.

3: Number of planets it would take to meet human needs if everyone lived by European standards, compared with 6 to live like Americans and 1.6 on a global scale.

1.8 billion: Number of people who will be living in a region suffering from water scarcity by 2025, compared with 700 million today.

2050: Year by which fish could disappear from the world’s oceans unless the fishing industry is thoroughly overhauled. Nearly one-third of species are victims of overfishing.


Journalist: Benjamin Keller

Graphics: onlab, Thibaud Tissot and Aleksandar Savić

Sources: Rystad Energy, EIA, UN-Water, BP, Oilprice.com, UXC Consulting, OECD, Nuclear Engineering International, Wise Uranium Project, Statista, USGS, MIT, Mkango, UNEP, FAO, World Bank, Global Footprint Network, DIW, Dundee Capital Markets, Timetric, Hydro, World Aluminium, Ernst & Young, The Motley Fool.

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