Overconsumption and growth economy key drivers of environmental crises: scientists’ warning on affluence

Shown is how the global material footprint (MF, equal to global raw material extraction) and global CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes (CO2 FFI) changed compared with global GDP (constant 2010 USD).

A group of researchers, led by a UNSW sustainability scientist, have reviewed existing academic discussions on the link between wealth, economy and associated impacts, reaching a clear conclusion: technology will only get us so far when working towards sustainability – we need far-reaching lifestyle changes and different economic paradigms. During the past 40 years, worldwide wealth growth has continuously outpaced any efficiency gains. “Technology can help us to consume more efficiently, i.e. to save energy and resources, but these technological improvements cannot keep pace with our ever-increasing levels of consumption,” Prof Wiedmann says.

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