This figure illustrates global trends in material extraction, GDP, population and material intensity in indexed form (1980 equals a value of 100).

Trends in global material extraction, GDP and material intensity, 1980-2013

This analysis addresses the question, whether on the global level, a de-coupling between economic growth and material extraction could be observed over the past 30 years. It can be seen that between 1980 and 2013, world GDP (in constant prices) grew by almost 150%. At the same time, global material extraction increased by around 130%. Across the whole time period, a slight relative de-coupling could be observed. 

However, the dynamic changed completely around the year 2000. Before the millennium, material intensity of the world economy decreased constantly, indicated that a relative de-coupling occurred. In the year 2000, 20% less materials were required to produce a US$ of global economic output compared to 1980. However, since 2000, the material intensity curve bounds upward, indicating that in the past 15 years, not even a relative de-coupling can observed. Due to the rapid expansion of material extraction activities in many world regions, growth rates in extraction are even above the global growth rates for GDP. Currently, the world economy is therefore on a path of re-materialisation and far away from any – even relative – de-coupling.

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