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The threat to the planet

With the natural environment now under greater pressure than ever before, the consequences for both people and nature will be disastrous unless we act now.

What is happening to the planet?

It’s been over 20 years since the UN report, Our Common Future, warned about the unrealistic demands people were making on natural resources such

Two revealing indicators from WWF’s Living Planet Report, which is published every two years, starkly illustrate the crisis now facing people and nature:

  • People are now using about 25% more natural resources than the planet can replace. However, the example set by the developed world shows that things could get far worse – three planets would be needed to support us if everyone lived like people in the UK.
  • Wildlife is failing to cope with the increasing demand for natural resources. Our measure of biodiversity surveys nearly 1,500 species and reveals a 27% decline in populations since 1970.

Why are the next five years so crucial?

Our natural environment can only take this pressure for so long. The growing loss of habitats, the over-exploitation of wildlife and other environmental threats mean that widespread wildlife extinction and the breakdown of our most important natural systems are inevitable unless we urgently work together for change.

Climate change is the most obvious symptom of our over-consumption of natural resources. Most scientists agree that we face a high risk of severe and irreversible environmental change unless the release of greenhouse gases starts to decline within the next 10 years. If we fail to act, the consequences for people and nature could be devastating. For example, hundreds of millions of people in low-lying cities like London would be threatened if the Greenland ice sheet – already melting twice as fast as a decade ago – was to melt completely. The natural environment would be placed under even more severe pressure through predicted changes such as the drying out of rainforests and the destruction of coral reefs.

Whether we like it or not, it is up to our present generation to act, and act now.

graph showing decline in species graph showing humanity's rising ecological footprint

WWF’s two key indices of the health of planet Earth demonstrate the failure of governments, businesses and all of us to take the environment seriously enough – yet.


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Living Planet Report 2010

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