As you learn more about the ways humans are impacting the planet, it can be hard to remain optimistic. There are many causes of concern, but there are also signs of hope.
Causes of concern: humans are placing lots of stresses on the earth, they're getting stronger, and we're slow to change.
- Our use of resources is forecast to more than double between 2010-2050
- Our use of fossil fuel energy continues to rise
- The amount of waste we produce continues to rise
- The population is now forecast to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050
- 2 billion more people are expected to become middle class by 2030, meaning higher resource use
Impacts on the environment and other species:
- Almost one third of species assessed are threatened with extinction
- Global biodiversity, or population sizes, are estimated to have halved since 1970
- Temperatures have already risen 1 degree and will continue to go up, and heatwaves will worsen
- The oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, meaning fewer fish and increased disease
- Sea levels are predicted to rise by nearly 3 feet this century
- We are seeing more frequent and more intense droughts, floods, cyclones, hurricanes and storms
- All of this will result in regional food and water shortages, leading to wars and mass migrations
Signs of hope: humans are inventive things, and we are transitioning to a circular economy based on low carbon energy.
- Additions to electricity capacity are now coming more from renewable than fossil fuel sources (developed countries)
- The recycling rate in the UK is now around 45%, up from less than 10% at the turn of the century
- The global economy has become 40% more resource efficient since 1980
- The Human Development Index increased by 40% in the past 40 years
- Organically managed land which reduces pollution and promotes ecosystem health has more than trebled since 1999
- There are now over a million electric cars on the roads