Intensified global competition for decreasing stocks of resources

Key message: The world's stocks of natural resources are already decreasing. A larger and richer global population with increasing consumption needs will make bigger demands for many things including food, water and energy. In the future, rising demand and falling supply could intensify global competition for resources.

SOER 2010: thematic assessment — consumption and the environment

Why are resources important for you?

Access to resources is crucial for any economy. As Europe is relatively resource-poor it needs to import many resources. This is especially true assuming continuing growth in demand for the resources needed to produce many advanced technologies.

Raw materials (minerals, for example): Growing long-term scarcity of minerals and metals may induce us to turn to sources hitherto deemed uneconomic. Expanding mining has several environmental effects, including changing landscapes, polluting water and generating waste. Poorer quality mineral reserves may mean that exploiting such sources is less energy efficient.

Natural resources (food crops, for example): A larger, wealthier population by 2050 implies a demand for agricultural production that is much higher than today. This could have impacts in terms of: loss of natural ecosystems, damage to ecosystem services including carbon and water cycling, and impacts on provisioning of food and fibre.

Graph 3: Changing area of farmland

The world’s population may grow significantly over coming decades and diets are shifting from cereals to meat as wealth increases. This has considerable implications for land use and natural ecosystems.

For more information see: Global megatrends: decreasing stocks of natural resources:

Changing area of farmland


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