Water scarcity, energy challenges and food security are three increasingly-recognized global challenges. Resource security, however, remains largely unaddressed, in part because the majority of minerals and metals are not currently scarce and the importance of these resources is not as obviously visible.
Projected population growth and increasing affluence will, however, cause demand for resources to grow. This will cause greater competition, which means that those countries largely dependent on imports for their resources, such as the UK, may end up in a particularly vulnerable position.
This briefing will look at resource demand, security and scarcity. It will be argued that, while there are many ways in which resource security can be improved in theory, these are often not viable.
One reason is that different challenges have conflicting solutions. Land could be used to extract minerals and metals, but the same land could also be used by farmers to increase output, or by the building sector to develop residential properties.
At the same time, there are conflicting scarcity problems that appear more urgent than impending metal and mineral scarcity. Water scarcity will be a serious problem, and the increasing demand for energy will difficult to meet.
When considering widely discussed solutions for these global challenges, it becomes obvious that much trust is placed in technology. Technology, however, relies heavily on the availability of metals and minerals, and all of these solutions would consequently influence resource security adversely.
What this shows, more than anything, is that the complicated and intertwined nature of the challenges the world faces can in the long term only be solved by actively reducing demand for resources of all kinds.
This means that we ought to reduce per capita demand, but more importantly, that population stabilisation policies are of paramount importance. This is particularly the case given the currently very low per capita consumption of much of the world’s population.