Technology & Science

Canadians leave heavy ecological footprint: WWF

A new report by conservationists says Canadians rank fourth in the world in their consumption of the Earth's resources.

A new report by conservationists says Canadians rank fourth in the world in their consumption of the Earth's resources.

The World Wide Fund for Nature report on the state of the natural world measures the environmental impact or "ecological footprint" left by 150 countries.

The footprint of a country includes all the crop land, grazing land, forest and fishing grounds needed to produce the food, fibre and timber it consumes, to absorb the wastes in generating the energy it uses, and to provide space for its infrastructure.

The group says humans are stripping the Earth of its resources faster than at any other time in history and that we will need two planets' worth of natural resources by the middle of this century to support it if current trends continue.

WWF names the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Finland and Canada asthe worst offenders, followed by Kuwait, Australia, Estonia, Sweden, New Zealand and Norway.

It says the carbon dioxide footprint, from the use of fossil fuels, was the fastest growing component of our global ecological footprint, increasing more than nine fold from 1961 to 2003.

'Dire consequences'

The report, released in Beijing on Tuesday, also says the number of species has declined significantly between 1970 and 2003. Land-based species declined by 31 per cent, freshwater species by 28 per cent, and marine species by 27 per cent.

"We are in serious ecological overshoot, consuming resources faster than the Earth can replace them," James Leape, the director general ofWWF International, said in a news release. "The consequences of this are predictable and dire."

"It is time to make some vital choices," he added. "Change that improves living standards while reducing our impact on the natural world will not be easy. The cities, power plants and homes we build today will either lock society into damaging over-consumption beyond our lifetimes, or begin to propel this and future generations towards sustainable living."

The report singles out China for its potential to make a difference.

The country comes mid-way in world rankings, at No. 69, but its growing economy and rapid development mean it has a key role in keeping the world on the path to sustainability.

Leape told Reuters that China, home to a fifth of the world's population, was making the right move in pledging to reduce its energy consumption by 20 per cent over the next five years.

"Much will depend on the decisions made by China, India and other rapidly developing countries," he said.