A report shows wildlife populations have declined by half in just two generations as a direct consequence of human consumption and climate change.
If everyone in the world lived like Aussies we’d need two and half extra planets for nature to cope, a WWF report warns.
The conservation group’s 2014 Living Planet Report, launched on Tuesday, says Australia has the 13th largest ecological footprint per person in the world.
Australians use 6.52 global hectares per person each year, the report says.
A global hectare is a common unit that averages out what the world’s productive land and ocean can generate over the course of a year, excluding unproductive environments such as deserts.
“If everyone on the planet lived like we do in Australia, we’d need the regenerative capacity of 3.6 planet Earths to maintain our current lifestyles,” WWF-Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman says.
Carbon pollution made up over half of Australia’s ecological footprint, the report said, highlighting the need for decisive action to cut carbon emissions.
“If we are to live within our means and stop this ecological overshoot, we need to introduce urgent measures that address our growing carbon footprint,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Scaling up the Renewable Energy Target and strengthening the government’s pollution reduction target from five per cent to at least 25 per cent by 2020 are two ways to achieve this.”
The report paints a bleak picture of the natural world, saying global wildlife populations have declined by more than half in 40 years.
“We are cutting trees faster than they mature, harvesting more fish than our oceans can replenish, and emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than forests and oceans can absorb,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Australians are not alone in our ecological overspending. For more than 40 years, humanity’s footprint on nature has exceeded what our planet can sustain.”
He said the our current lifestyle was resulting in climate change, water scarcity, food insecurity and ongoing wildlife declines.
But Mr O’Gorman said it wasn’t too late to take action because humanity hadn’t reached the point of no return.
He pointed to Queensland farmers along the Great Barrier Reef as a good example of managing resources, while respecting ecological limits.
The Living Planet Report showed innovative farming practices had resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in pesticide pollution and a 13 per cent drop in fertiliser pollution in reef waters in the past five years.
Since the report went to print, the Australian government’s latest figures show an even better result, with pesticide pollution down 28 per cent and fertiliser pollution reduced by 16 per cent.
“The planet is clearly under stress, but with better production and smarter choices to protect our natural assets and reduce our footprint we can turn the tide and start to live within our means,” Mr O’Gorman said.
The Living Planet Report 2014 was compiled by WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre and Oxfam also contributed.