Modeling Future Resource Demands

In addition to contemporary and past trend analyses of stocks and flows, ambitious attempts to forecast future patterns of natural resource use have been attempted. A study by the MOSUS (Modelling Opportunities and limits for restructuring Europe towards SUStainability) project carried out a scenario analysis through 2020 for six resource groups including biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores, and industrial/construction minerals. This provides an ex-ante assessment of environmental and economic effects of different resource policies (Giljum et al. 2008).

Another attempt, even more ambitious, forecasts the consumption of metals up to 2050 by employing a macroscopic linear model of the relationship between per-capita metal consumption and per-capita GDP (Halada et al. 2008). This study predicted that consumption of metals would increase to five times

1,400,000

1,200,000 1,000,000

800,000 600,000 400,000 200,000

1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Figure 6.1 Trends of crude steel production by region.

the current level as a result of development in Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and that consumption of some metals would even exceed their reserve base. The results, however, need to be interpreted carefully, because price effects and technological innovation were not considered in the study.

Even if it is difficult to forecast long-term resource demands by developing economies, we know for certain that Chinese crude steel production grew over the last decade from 100-500 million tons (Figure 6.1). No equivalent growth pattern has been observed in any region of the world at any time in the past. This example demonstrates that growth of population and affluence in developing economies combine to increase the demand for mineral resources signifi cantly. Technological innovation will be a signifi cant driving force in determining future demand for some specific metals. In particular, the possible side effects of increasing demand for metals involved in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies should be noted.

1,200,000 1,000,000

800,000 600,000 400,000 200,000

1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Figure 6.1 Trends of crude steel production by region.

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