The United States and Western Europe make up a small fraction of the world’s population: The United States’ 309.6 million people constitute 4.49 percent of the global population in 2010; the 288 million in developed Europe, 4.17% (Population Reference Bureau 2010). Growth rates in these regions are slowing, and are on the path to reach eventual stabilization. Despite constituting about 8.7% of the total population, these two regions account for about 45.5% of the total energy consumed globally (2009 Report on Key World Energy Statistics, IEA).
This seemingly incongruous statistic is possible because the per capita consumption of goods and services in the developed world is as much as an order of magnitude higher than anywhere else on the planet. For example, the average per capita consumption of energy and resources in the U.S. is 25 times that of Africa or India, and 10 times that of China or Latin America (Jackson 2002).
The “good news” from the developed world is that it is becoming more efficient: In the United States, between 1949 and 2004, the amount of energy required to produce a dollar’s worth of goods and services fell by half (U.S. Department of Energy 2008). However, the bad news is that this did not translate in reduced energy expenditure. Instead, export of goods and services increased six-fold and total energy use increased three-fold (U.S. Department of Energy 2008). In order for increased efficiency to have a positive impact, citizens of the developed world must make a concerted effort to use less.