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Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW) 2012Natural resources are essential for all life – and they are finite. The growing consumption of resources per capita and the rapid growth of the world population are increasing the pressure on the Earth’s ecosystem and could become a burden for future generations. Must we limit our consumption? Or can we combat the scarcity of natural resources through technological advances and greater efficiency alone? It is up to society to decide how it wants to use natural resources. It must however quantify and measure the use of natural resources and the problems associated therewith, for example by means of indicators. In this brochure “Measuring the use of natural resources and its impacts” current methods and indicators for the four natural resource categories materials, land area, energy and water are presented and – as an example of how they are used – applied to the production of one kilogram each of the metals copper, lithium, neodymium and platinum. The spectrum of users today extends from individuals (for example in purchase decisions) and companies (for example in improving production processes) to nations or international communities of states (for example in political decisions as to whether to promote new technologies). The “100-year GWP” for example found practical application in Swiss legislation13 on the taxing of fuels.