Earth is at 173% of its ‘biocapacity’ (with some richer countries using more than their share)

Rob Waugh
·3 min read
Village of Mora in the province of Toledo, Castilla la Mancha, Spain, Europe.
We are using 173% of Earth's 'biocapacity', researchers have warned. (Getty)

People on our planet are using almost double Earth’s resources – a number known as ‘biocapacity’ – and it is worsening inequality, new research has shown. 

A paper published in Nature argues that countries can no longer afford to ignore this, with the Earth now using 173% of resources, based on 2017 figures. 

Rich countries, which consume far more of the Earth’s resources than lower-income ones, have the money to buy in resources from elsewhere. 

But an increasingly large number of people live in countries with both low income and diminishing resources, ScienceAlert reports

Read more: Astronomers find better planets for life than Earth

Lower-income countries cannot simply aspire to be like rich city-states like Dubai or Hong Kong, as this is not sustainable at a planetary level, the researchers warned. 

“Countries in the highest per-person income bracket also are among the countries with the highest per-person resource requirements, often far beyond what can be replicated worldwide," they wrote. 

“If all people on Earth adopted the average material demand of residents in Dubai, Switzerland, Hong Kong or Singapore, it would take the biocapacity of 5.6, 2.8, 2.939 or 3.7 planet Earths, respectively. 

“In a sustainable world, the reasonable goal from an ecological stability perspective might be using no more than half the planet’s capacity.”

In 1980, the human race only used 119% of Earth’s biocapacity. 

Watch: Super proposal! Man uses pink moon to have partner say 'I do' by London's iconic Shard building

Read more: Antarctic records hottest temperature ever

The researchers argue that it will be impossible to eradicate poverty without a new global focus on resource security. 

The researchers wrote: “The Anthropocene [a new human era marked by human impact on Earth’s ecosystems] is marked by unprecedented global change leading to declining global ecosystem health and rising pollution, consistent with global ecological overshoot. 

“Biocapacity constraints, while previously local and distributional in nature, are now emerging on a global scale as documented here. 

"Therefore, succeeding with poverty eradication will be impossible without a focus on biological resource security.”

Read more: Scientists drill into mysterious lake buried 3,500 feet under Antarctica

Last year, human beings exhausted the planet’s supply of natural resources on 22 August, meaning we went into ‘the red’.

Every year, ‘Overshoot Day’ – the point where we go into ecological ‘debt’, in terms of the amount of carbon we emit, and crops we use up – comes earlier. 

Overshoot day was first conceived in 2006, and shows how much human beings are overusing our resources (via overfishing and overharvesting). 

We now use a year’s worth in 212 days - which means we’re demanding the resources of 1.7 Earths, based on UN statistics on ‘biocapacity’ - the amount of resources Earth can regenerate in a year. 

Watch: Countries are emitting more CO2 than they are reporting