The U.N. Environment Program says humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year by 2050, three times its current appetite, a U.N. release said Thursday.
UNEP's International Resource Panel warns that with the growth of both population and prosperity, especially in developing countries, the prospect of much higher resource consumption levels is "far beyond what is likely sustainable."
Achieving a rate of resource productivity greater than the economic growth rate -- doing "more with less" -- is the notion behind "decoupling," the panel said.
"Decoupling makes sense on all the economic, social and environmental dials," U.N. Under Secretary-General Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, said.
"People believe environmental 'bads' are the price we must pay for economic 'goods.' However, we cannot, and need not, continue to act as if this trade-off is inevitable," he said.
"Decoupling is part of a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy needed in order to stimulate growth, generate decent kinds of employment and eradicate poverty in a way that keeps humanity's footprint within planetary boundaries."