UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Saving the environment may require people to work shorter hours in the future, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.
The report by U.N.’s International Resource Panel found the amount of raw materials extracted from the Earth has tripled over the last 40 years, fueled by a growing global middle class, and that will require a more efficient use of resources in order to avoid serious environmental consequences.
That increased efficiency will in turn lead to lower costs and higher economic growth which could hamper efforts to reduce overall demand, the report said.
In order to compensate for these gains in efficiency, the report recommends a combination of policy initiatives including shorter working hours and pricing raw materials in way that reflects the social and economic costs of their extraction.
“Rethinking the way we use materials is essential if we are to safeguard humanity’s future,” the panel’s co-chair Alicia Barcena Ibarra said in a statement. “A prosperous and equitable world that overcomes these problems will require transformative changes in how we live our lives and how we consume materials.”
According to the report, the amount of raw materials extracted from Earth rose to 70 billion tons in 2010 up from 22 billion tons in 1970.
Meanwhile, the efficiency of raw material use has been declining since 2000, just as their global use has rapidly accelerated as emerging economies like China embarked on ambitious industrial and urban transformations.
The report found that the world’s richest countries consume on average 10 times as much raw materials the poorest nations and about twice the world average.
If the world continues on its current trajectory, by 2050 the planet will need three times more raw materials than are consumed today, intensifying climate change and pollution as well as ultimately leading to the depletion of the Earth’s natural resources, the report said.