There will be an increasing mismatch between resource consumption and availability. The developed western world already consumes at a rate that is three times greater than the planet’s ability to provide. But per capita consumption is still increasing; the population is growing; and the less developed world is developing (notably the major populations of Brazil, India/Pakistan and China - BrIC).
Meanwhile, some key resources are on the decline (notably peak oil production is predicted to occur within the next few years).
Possible solutions to the issue of world resources have three different dimensions: supply, demand and change in lifestyle. With petrol, for example, we need to find alternative fuels (bio-diesel, electricity, maybe hydrogen) to help on the supply side. We also need to reduce petrol consumption by building lighter more efficient vehicles. And we need to live in a way that reduces the required amount of travel - denser cities; better public transport; improved communications; better connection between need (where people live) and provision (food, goods etc) so that you can walk or cycle between them.
One possible consequence as resources become scarce is the potential to fight over what remains. Half the world’s oil is in the Middle East. Perhaps less well known is that 60% of the world’s natural gas is split between Russia and a single reserve under the Persian Gulf - jointly owned by Qatar and Iran. We have war in Iraq, foreign military bases in Qatar and mutterings about things in Iran. Is this a coincidence? And what happens when BrIC’s economic development is curtailed by a shortage of oil and gas?
So here is my longlist of issues that need to be addressed over the next eighteen years:
- Climate Change
- Demographic shift (living longer)
- Short-term views of Governments (only respond to elections; only manage the economy; not interested in social welfare)
- Waste management (there should be no such thing as waste)
- Urbanisation (how should cities be put together?)
The shortlist is:
- How can we agree on an equitable distribution of scarce resources?
- How do we change our way of life to reduce our consumption?