Should we be worried about consumption?

Globally, we are using more stuff and energy each year [1,2]. Much of this is explained by population growth [3,4], but resource use per person has also increased [5,6,7]. For example, people are eating more food, especially meat [6], and energy use per person increased by 44% between 1971 and 2015 [5].

Our consumption of resources is shown by the amount of money we spend on a product or service [7].

This total financial value of finished products and services is represented by Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[8,9].

GDP varies between regions and with time (swipe!) [8,9] so we standardize it to account for inflation and the currencies of different countries [10].

We can see our consumption has increased in the graph above (swipe!) because the standardized global GDP per person has risen by 140% between 1970 and 2016 [11]. So clearly to reduce emissions we need to decrease consumption! But is this easy to do? Wait and see in our next post!


[1] Within report see: section 2.1. Increase from 26.7b tonnes to 75.6b tonnes 1970 to 2010, so a 2.8-fold increase

[2] Within article see: How much energy does the world consume? Calculation: 64052.6 TWh in 1970 to 153595.66 TWh in 2017, so an increase by 2.4x (153595.66/64052.6 = 2.40)

[3] Impacts of population growth, economic development, and technical change on global food production and consumption, Schneider et al. 2011. Agricultural Systems. See: E.g. Abstract

[4] See: ‘In this context, one question remains…’

[5] Within article see: Energy use per capita. Increase from 15,540 KWh per person in 1971 to 22,336 kWh per person in 2014(22336/15540 = 1.437, so a 44% increase)

[6] Within paper see: Global dietary change


[8] Within article see: What is GDP?

[9] See: Table (All Countries and Economies, filter by Most Recent Value (millions) descending)


[11] Within article see: Growth at the technological frontier and catch-up growth, GDP per capita graph, filtered for “world”. Note: GDP per capita adjusted for price changes over time, and price differences between countries. Increase from $5935 in 1970 to $14,574 in 2016 (14574/5935 = 2.456, so increased by 2.5x or 150%)

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