Spiralling global population and over-consumption are threatening the future health of the planet, according to a latest survey of the Earth's health.
The environmental conservation charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a report released on Tuesday said the demand on natural resources has become unsustainable and is putting "tremendous" pressure on the planet's biodiversity.
"We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal."
- Jim Leape, WWF international director
WWF named Qatar as the country with the largest ecological footprint, followed by its Gulf Arab neighbours Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Denmark and the United States made up the remaining top five, calculated by comparing the renewable resources consumed against the earth's regenerative capacity.
The Living Planet Report found that high-income countries have an ecological footprint on average five times that of low-income ones.
"We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal," said Jim Leape, WWF international director general.
"We are using 50 per cent more resources that the Earth can sustainably produce and unless we change course, that number will grow fast -- by 2030 even two planets will not be enough," added Leape.
The survey, compiled every two years, reported an average 30 per cent decrease in biodiversity since 1970, rising to 60 per cent in the hardest-hit tropical regions.
The decline has been most rapid in lower income countries, "demonstrating how the poorest and most vulnerable nations are subsidising the lifestyles of wealthier countries," said WWF.
The report comes ahead of June's Rio+20 gathering, the fourth major summit on sustainable development since 1972.
The WWF is urging governments to implement more efficient production systems that would reduce human demand for land, water and energy and a change in governmental policy that would measure a country's success beyond its GDP figure.
But the immediate focus must be on drastically shrinking the ecological footprint of high-income countries, particularly their carbon footprint, the WWF said.
"This report is like a planetary check-up and the results indicate we have a very sick planet, said Jonathan Baillie, conservation programme director of the Zoological Society of London, which co-produced the report along with the Global Footprint Network.
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|William A. Cook|