Resource extraction responsible for half world’s carbon emissions

(EurActiv, 13 Mar 2019) Extraction industries are responsible for half of the world’s carbon emissions and more than 80% of biodiversity loss, according to the most comprehensive environmental tally undertaken of mining and farming. EURACTIV’s media partner, The Guardian, reports.

While this is crucial for food, fuel and minerals, the study by UN Environment warns the increasing material weight of the world’s economies is putting a more dangerous level of stress on the climate and natural life-support systems than previously thought.

Resources are being extracted from the planet three times faster than in 1970, even though the population has only doubled in that time, according to the Global Resources Outlook, which was released in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Each year, the world consumes more than 92b tonnes of materials – biomass (mostly food), metals, fossil fuels and minerals – and this figure is growing at the rate of 3.2% per year.

Since 1970, extraction of of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) has increased from 6bn tonnes to 15bn tonnes, metals have risen by 2.7% a year, other minerals (particularly sand and gravel for concrete) have surged nearly fivefold from 9bn to 44bn tonnes, and biomass harvests have gone up from 9bn to 24bn tonnes.

Up until 2000, this was a huge boost to the global economy, but since then there has been a diminishing rate of return as resources become more expensive to extract and the environmental costs become harder to ignore.

“The global economy has focused on improvements in labour productivity at the cost of material and energy productivity. This was justifiable in a world where labour was the limiting factor of production. We have moved into a world where natural resources and environmental impacts have become the limiting factor of production and shifts are required to focus on resource productivity,”€ says the study.

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EurActiv, 13 Mar 2019: Resource extraction responsible for half world’s carbon emissions