We Will be Using Less Resources by 2050 Due to Resource Crunch, UN Says

The ‘natural capital’ of our planet is slowly decreasing and this is something that businesses have to contend with. According to the UN, by 2050, we will be using fewer resources whether we like it or not. The report titled Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, examines challenges that humanity is going to be collectively facing in the coming years.

The report repeatedly emphasizes the need for sustainable development to become to focus of business and political decisions. According to the report: 

We must grasp the dimensions of the challenge. We must recognize that the drivers of that challenge include unsustainable lifestyles, production and consumption patterns and the impact of population growth. As the global population grows from 7 billion to almost 9 billion by 2040, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially. By 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water — all at a time when environmental boundaries are throwing up new limits to supply. This is true not least for climate change, which affects all aspects of human and planetary health.

The report covers many aspects of sustainable development including calling for holistic research and policy planning in the areas of water conservation, environment, and poverty alleviation. It also talks about ensuring greater gender and age equity, job and educational opportunities. It also calls for increasing agricultural productivity, improving food security, without compromising on biodiversity. Finally it talks about factoring in the environmental cost of goods and services into the price tag of the product. It also highlights the inadequacies of GDP as a measurement of economic success and calls for better a better system. Finally it talks about phasing out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, as well as more investment in renewable energy sources.

The previous report by the UN stressed that developing countries will begin to see reverse economic growth by 2050  and this one stresses the rapid decline of natural resources. The report is more a compilation of various policies rather than stating anything new and reads much like a survival guide.

The point it does drive home though is the eventual deterioration of quality of life. In the future world of 9 billion people, even with improvements in technology, developed countries will only have the same quality of life as presently developing countries. We world therefore needs to be more prudent about its distribution of resources rather than developing countries aspiring to achieve the same consumption patterns as the rest of the world.

The natural resource crunch might actually act as the great flattener, equalizing all the countries of the world. So if we are going to be forced to use less by 2050, we should start practicing now as it would be a shame to wait and see.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

One response

  1. The UN for once is being totally realistic but where most global players are not. Two of the most sourced indicators of what the world will be like in 2050 are the reports by HSBC and Citibank and where these are painted through rose tinted glasses. All pointers indicate that there is not only a shift in economic power taking place but put more bluntly, an economic war on the horizon. With constantly diminishing natural resources that are depleting at an astonishing rate and scarce/rare elements being predominantly located in the East, the picture that both HSBC and Citibank paint are far remote to what reality will be like come 2050. For specifically, there will not be enough of the world’s natural resources around to provide  for human sustainability as we know it today in the West. For even today in the yearly calendar of sustainability we have used by September all the natural resources we can provide for  a sustainable future. Therefore presently we are 3 months over-stretched already for sustainability to be real and achievable. Consider what it will be like in 2050, most probably at our current rates of extraction we will have reached our extraction sustainability limit month by around March, meaning that we are living on borrowed time having exceeded our yearly sustainability quota by 9 months out of the 12 months. Then nations will be vying and most probably fighting over resources for their own people. Indeed do you think for one minute that the Chinese with 1.35 billion people will say then, we don’t want that mineral or elements, you can have them and we will do without? The problem with these banks et al is that they do not live in the real world and where they have probably a great reason to keep fooling the people into a false sense of security. That reason is that they do not care if the East is supreme or the West is supreme economically as they will just move out and shift to where the financial action is taking place. No scruples just bottom-line mentality as usual.
    Therefore we have to start to get our heads around the situation that uses common sense and see that if all the world had the same standard of living as in the West presently, we would need the natural resources of at least 3 planet Earths; and where even that eventually would run out also in 300 years. The world in 38 years will therefore not be the utopian world that HSBC and Citibank would like us all to think, but  will be a gradually darkening world where wealth per capita will not be analysed but a constantly declining poverty per capita statistic. Consequently our politicians have to start thinking of the whole now and not just their needs in a nationalistic context. For if not, constant wars will become common place. Not pie-in-the-sky but sheer fact through intelligent reasoning.

    Dr David Hill
    World Innovation Foundation

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