‘Stop Eating Meat to Save the Planet’, UN Report Suggests
Taxes could encourage people towards a plant-based diet, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and combating wildlife habitat loss, a UN report claims.
The Global Resources Outlook 2019, examines the trends in natural resources and their corresponding consumption patterns since the 1970s.
Reducing the impact of cattle and other livestock, which account for 77 per cent of agricultural land use worldwide, could also be helped by lab grown meats.
Humans are rapidly using up the world's resources with our consumption of vital materials tripling since 1970, the UN report warns.
Each person in the planet's wealthiest countries were found to use an estimated 9.8 tons of materials - including oil, gas, food and wood - in 2017.
A rise infrastructure and a higher material standard of living in developing and transitioning countries, especially Asia, has compounded the problem.
The world's population has doubled in that time and global domestic product (GDP) - a measure of a country's economic production - has vastly increased, spelling profound implications for our environment.
Experts say that the our economy needs to change drastically on a global level to curb emissions and the 'severe' impacts of global warming.
The report, which uses data from historical trends, projects that from 2015 to 2060, natural resources will grow by 110 per cent.
This will lead to a reduction of forests by more than 10 per cent and a reduction of other habitats like grasslands by around 20 per cent, they said.
The annual global extraction of materials has grown to 92 billion tonnes and is set to double by 2060, which they predict will cause a 43 per cent increase in greenhouse gases.
They have cited that this level of resource extraction is the chief culprit in climate change and biodiversity loss.
According to the report, the problem will only worsen unless the world urgently undertakes a systemic reform of resource use.
They said that consumption of water, minerals and fossil fuels had tripled since 1970.
'The Global Resources Outlook shows that we are ploughing through this planet's finite resources as if there is no tomorrow, causing climate change and biodiversity loss along the way,' said Joyce Msyua, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment.
'Frankly, there will be no tomorrow for many people unless we stop.'
Over the past five decades, the population has doubled and global domestic product has increased four times.
The report finds that, in the same period, annual global extraction of materials grew from 27 billion tonnes to 92 billion tonnes.
If the trend continues, this figure will double again to 190 billion tonnes in forty years.
'The extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food make up about half of total global greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90 per cent of biodiversity loss and water stress,' the report said.
Since 2000, growth in extraction rates have accelerated to 3.2 per cent per year, driven largely by major investments in infrastructure.
Fossil fuel usage went from 6 billion tonnes in 1970 to 15 billion tons in 2017.
The report argues that resource efficiency is essential, though not enough on its own.
'What is needed is a move from linear to circular flows through a combination of extended product life cycles, intelligent product design and standardisation and reuse, recycling and re-manufacturing,' it says.
The 'Towards Sustainability' scenario boosts policy measures to slow the growth of resource use.
They say that this would lead to reduced pressure on food and water supplies and boost global economic growth by 8 percent.
If the recommended measures are implemented, it could accelerate economic growth, outweighing the up-front economic costs of shifting to economic models consistent with holding global warming to 1.5°C this century.
The international pledge under the Paris Agreement aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6°F) - or 1.5°C (2.7°F) if possible.