Home » WWF news

Living Planet Report 2008

29 October 2008

Note: the 2010 Living Planet Report can be found here

The 2008 edition of the WWF Living Planet Report reveals a planet in environmental crisis. Only urgent action to curb our rampant consumption can prevent ecological recession sliding into irreversible breakdown.

At a time of global financial crisis, which has caused so much worry for all of us, it’s been hard to think about much else. And yet, the publication of the WWF Living Planet Report – the internationally respected statement on the health of the planet – is a timely reminder that we can’t ignore the worsening ecological credit crunch our planet now faces.

Demand for resources now exceeds the planet's capacity to replenish its ‘natural capital’ by about 30%. If global consumption continues at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we will need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.

In addition, the new report shows that populations of nearly 1,700 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by nearly 30% since 1970. The situation is particularly bleak in tropical regions, where the average fall is 51%.

The report also highlights that the availability of fresh water is of increasing concern, with some 50 countries now experiencing either seasonal or permanent shortages.

These extremely disappointing downward trends stem from a growing human population’s increasing ‘footprint’: our rampant consumption of resources such as timber and paper, water, energy, agricultural crops, meat and dairy products, fish and seafood, and land for infrastructure – as well as the impacts associated with disposing of waste products.

“Our natural environment is already bowing under this pressure,” said Colin Butfield, WWF’s Head of Campaigns. “The danger is that the ecological recession will be followed by a widespread and irreversible breakdown in our most important natural systems.”

Road to recovery

© Martin HARVEY / WWF-Canon

But the good news is that we have the means to reverse the ecological devastation. The report outlines how we can put ourselves on a more sustainable path via global strategies that WWF is now spearheading.

For example, with carbon emissions from fossil fuel use noted as the greatest component of humanity’s footprint, the report outlines how energy efficiency and clean energy generation can help deliver a more sustainable future. The global carbon footprint has grown more than 10-fold since 1961.

“We humans have been very good at creating problems – but we can be equally good at solving them,” said David Norman, Director of Campaigns at WWF-UK. “A sustainable world is not an unachievable goal. As the world looks to restore its economies we must build in long-term environmental as well as economic sustainability.”

National footprints

© Mark EDWARDS / WWF-Canon

The report shows that in 2005 – the year when data for the report was compiled – the US and China had the largest total footprints, each using 21% of the planet’s natural capacity.

The average citizen in the US and United Arab Emirates has the biggest ecological footprint – or environmental impact on the planet. The UK comes in 15th, with the average UK citizen having almost four times more impact on the planet than the average African.

The report, which is published every two years, is produced with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network.

Making a difference
We can all take simple steps to reduce our impact on the planet. WWF’s online footprint calculator enables you to measure your footprint, and provides many tips on ways to reduce it. WWF also works to reverse the decline in the world’s most threatened species and habitats, and to tackle the global threat posed by climate change. You can help to support our work by becoming a WWF member today.

The Living Planet Report, which is published every two years, is produced with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network.

See the 2010 Living Planet Report