The Chinese flags have disappeared from Washington’s wide avenues after China’s President Hu Jintao’s visit this week, but one statistic is still in the air: the rapidly expanding size of the Chinese ecological footprint, compared to the huge but slowing impact U.S. consumers have on global supplies of food, water, fuel — everything, really.
China and the United States are generally considered to hold the top two spots in the world for emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases. But how do they compare when consumption of all goods is taken into account?
A report by Global Footprint Network indicates both countries are living beyond their means, ecologically speaking.
The Ecological Footprint measures the land and sea area needed to produce the resources a population consumes and absorb its carbon dioxide emissions. By this measure, it would take just under 3 billion global hectares (about 7.4 billion global acres) to produce what China’s people consume. If everybody on the planet lived as the Chinese do, it would take the resources of 1.2 Earths.
(The numbers are a bit different when focusing just on Hong Kong, where it would take 2.2 Earths to supply the world’s demand if everybody lived as people do in Hong Kong. A new report with this focus is here.)