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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | Last updated: 10 Dec 2020

Land, Water and Biodiversity

Approximately 20% of the Earth’s vegetated surface shows persistent declining trends in productivity, mainly as a result of land/water use and management practices.

  • The demand for food is expected to increase by 35% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050 compared to 2012.
  • Global water demand might increase 55% by 2050, compared to 2015. Meantime, by 2025, 50% of the world's population might be living in water-stressed areas, while by 2030, there might be a 40% shortfall of water needs.
  • Global electricity demand is expected to increase 57% by 2050, mostly driven by increasing demands in China and India.
  • The demand for energy is expected to increase by more than 25% by 2040, compared to 2017. However, IEA scenarios show that if all economically viable avenues to improve efficiency were to be pursued, the overall demand for energy in 2040 could be at 2017's level.
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  • Since 1970, the world is in ecological deficit. At present, humanity is using the equivalent to 1.75 Earth planets to support its life style -- using natural capital 1.75 times faster than the ecosystem's  regeneration capacity. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29; EU's Overshoot Day was on May 10, meaning that if all humanity would live like EU residents, we would need 2.8 planets Earth.
  • An estimated 200 species are becoming extinct each day. We might be in the midst of the sixth mass extinction on Earth.  
  • The population of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have declined by an eswtimated 60% between 1970 and 2014; some 50% of shallow water corals has been lost in the past 30 years, and 20% of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years, notes WWF.
  • Forests, which host 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and play a key role in climate change mitigation are being destroyed around the world. Between 1990 and 2016, some 1.3 million square kilometres of forest area has been lost due to deforestation and forest degradation. About 80% of global deforestation is due to expansion of land used for agriculture.
  • Loss of biodiversity in an area could trigger a domino effect to future extinctions, leading to an "extinction cascade".
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  • Approximately 20% of the Earth’s vegetated surface shows persistent declining trends in productivity, mainly as a result of land/water use and management practices. | Related Megatrends: Natural resourcesDemographyGeopower; ConsumerismUrbanisation
  • Globally, 76% of the population derives most of their daily protein from plants. If CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, researchers estimate that roughly an additional 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. | Related Megatrends: HealthNatural resources
  • Eutrophication – pollution due to over-enrichment of water by nutrients such as nitrogen phosphorus – is increasing, becoming one of the leading causes of water quality impairment, loss of subaquatic vegetation, change in species composition, coral reef damage, low dissolved oxygen, and the formation of dead zones (oxygen-depleted waters) that can lead to ecosystem collapse. 
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  • In China, soil erosion is of about 5 billion tonnes annually affecting 360 Mha, including 75 Mha of the Yangtze and Yellow river basins.
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  • If current trends continue, there could be more plastics (by weight) than fish in the ocean by 2050.
  • Marine litter costs the EU economy an estimated €259 million to €695 million per year. Plastics make up 80-85 % of marine litter on European beaches, representing a major threat to marine and coastal biodiversity.  In 2018, the European Commission began discussing a legislative proposal seeking to address the issue of marine litter from plastics. 
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