Thursday, June 04, 2015

Economic Growth and World Resources

We can see the pressure that economic growth will put on resources in this century by looking at China as an example:
  • If China consumed as much oil per person as America now does, China alone would use more than the world’s total current oil production.
  • If China consumed as much paper as per person as America now does, China alone would need more paper than the world currently produces.
  • If China generated as much greenhouse gas emissions per person as America now does, China alone would generate more emissions than the entire world now generates. 
  • If Chinese owned as many cars as Americans, it would have over a billion cars, more than the entire world has today.
The same is true for a wide range of resources: if the average Chinese consumed as much as the average American does today, China alone would consume more resources than the entire world does today.  
China is just an example: the entire world will also approach American levels of consumption in this century, if current trends continue.

This chart projects growth of per capita GDP between 1980 and 2010 into the future.  China's growth has slowed recently, but a recent World Bank study predicts that it will reach America's current level of income in the 2040s. We can see in the graph that India is not far behind China.

Even more surprising, we can see that, before the end of the century, the entire world would have a per capita GDP as great as America has now, if recent trends continue.

If China's reaching American levels of consumption would put so much strain on the world's consumption of resources, than imagine the effect of the whole world reaching American levels of consumption.