Inherent Constraints on Major Resources

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Each of the four working groups at this Forum reached conclusions regarding constraints for supplying the desired quantity of resources in the coming decades. These constraints, detailed in Chapters 5, 11, 17, and 22, are summarized below.

For energy, the main issue is the anticipated transition from fossil to renewable energy sources. This transition is imperative in view of the current problems related to energy supply. However, since the required changes are so immense, there is a severe risk for catastrophic pathways. More specifically, the constraints described by Loschel et al. (Chapter 22) are:

• None of the renewable energy resources will be able to provide a major share of energy demand in the near future.

• Because of the major share of fossil fuels retained until 2050 in all scenarios, scarcities in easily accessible fossil fuels (especially oil) can be expected.

• Impacts from resource extraction will increase dramatically because of the need to mine lower quality fossil resources (e.g., tar sands), and CO2 emissions are unlikely to decrease significantly.

• Even if we assume a modest contribution of renewable energy sources to the total supply, huge changes will have to made in society and infrastructure; implementation poses an equally immense task, difficult even to envisage, and most probably constrained by economic, political, institutional, and behavioral factors.

For nonfossil fuel, nonrenewable resources (especially metals), global demand is rising rapidly, mainly in developing economies. Concomitantly, the utilization of progressively poorer ore grades will become a real issue in the future. The increase in demand implies that for the foreseeable future recycling will not provide an important supplementary resource. Specific constraints described by Maclean et al. (Chapter 11) are:

• Scarcities in the foreseeable future are expected to occur for some minor metals related to new technologies.

• Co- and byproduct mining may cause heavy price fluctuations because of the weak supply-demand link, impairing the establishment of a recycling industry.

• For exploration to find new mineable stocks, land access restrictions are expected to develop into a major problem.

Increased pressure on productive land is expected due to population and welfare growth. A first consequence of this pressure is a serious risk of losing important ecosystems, and thus their beneficial functions. Specific constraints identified by Seto et al. (Chapter 5) include:

• An increased share of animal products in the global diet, coupled to an already growing demand for food, will exponentially increase land requirements for food production.

• Land requirements related to an increased share of bio-based energy may be very large.

• Ongoing urbanization will lead to very intensive land use patterns.

• Increased land degradation is expected, due to overuse, loss of quality, or climate change.

Substantial growth is expected in global water use. Consequently, water stocks will decrease and the quality of freshwater stocks will go down. Lindner et al. (Chapter 17) describe the following specific constraints that are expected:

• Climate change will reduce freshwater availability in many places.

• Worldwide water demand will reach the order of magnitude of freshwater supply, leading to shortage in many places.

• Water quality will become a major problem, not just for freshwater but also for coastal areas that are important fi shing grounds, as a consequence of increased urbanization and agriculture.

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