Imperiling Climate Goals, Global Resource Extraction Set to Surge 60% by 2060

Mining and wind mills

Mining machines work in the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, with wind turbines in the background in North Rhine-Westphalia, Jackerath, Germany on April 4, 2022. (Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Wealthy nations are responsible for most of the consumption of natural resources, according to a new United Nations report.

By Thor Benson

The world could be extracting 60% more natural resources by 2060 if current trends continue, a new United Nations report finds.

The extraction of natural resources is having calamitous effects on the climate and the environment, the report states, and demand for such resources is only rising. These natural resources range from fossil fuels to the minerals and metals used in renewable energy.

“Extraction and processing of material resources… account for over 55% of greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of particulate matter health-related impacts,” says the report by the U.N. Environment Program’s International Resource Panel (IRP).

The report focuses on the large amounts of resources consumed by the world’s richest and largest nations, and it recommends these nations reduce their projected consumption by a third. This would reduce projected greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, benefit the environment, and improve human health.

Accomplishing this goal would require making significant changes in transportation, infrastructure, food consumption, and more. That may seem lofty, but the report states this can be accomplished without sacrificing economic growth. The economy simply needs to be grown in a more sustainable fashion.

“Weak, partial, fragmented, or slow policies will not work. This can only be possible with far-reaching and truly systemic shifts in energy, food, mobility, and the built environment implemented at an unprecedented scale and speed,” the report says.

The U.N. has been warning about the overconsumption of natural resources for years, and it seems the situation has only gotten more dire over time. While many wealthy nations have made progress in terms of increasing renewable energy use, less attention has been paid to the sustainable use of natural resources.

“We should not accept that meeting human needs must be resource-intensive, and we must stop stimulating extraction-based economic success. With decisive action by politicians and the private sector, a decent life for all is possible without costing the earth,” said Janez Poto─Źnik, co-chair of the IRP.

Thor Benson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article was published on March 1, 2024 at Common Dreams.

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