The world in 2050 A review of past, present and projected statistics of global resources, food and population up to 2050

. For nation shall rise against nation . . . and there shall be famines and troubles; these are the beginnings of sorrows. —Mark 13:8 Read more:,9171,911503,00.html#ixzz0orRB0ZbL


POPULATION Most of us have by now heard the forecast there will be 9.2 billion people in the world of 2050. But current projections suggest human numbers will not stop there – but will keep on climbing, to at least 11.4 billion, by the mid 2060s. Equally, the world economy will continue to grow – and China, India and other advancing economies will require more protein food. Thus, global demand for food will more than double over the coming half-century, as we add another 4.7 billion people. By then we will eat around 600 quadrillion calories a day, which is the equivalent of feeding 14 billion people at today’s nutritional levels. The central issue in the human destiny in the coming half century is not climate change or the global financial crisis. It is whether humanity can achieve and sustain such an enormous harvest. Today the world faces looming scarcities of just about everything necessary to produce high yields of food – water, land, nutrients, oil, technology, skills, fish and stable climates, each one playing into and compounding the others. So this isn’t a simple problem, susceptible to technofixes or national policy changes. It is a wicked problem. This challenge facing the coming generation of farmers is to double the global food supply: • using half the water • on far less land and with increasingly depleted soils, • without fossil fuels,

These two regions feed 1. while less than 1 per cent is from oceans and other aquatic habitats.000 sq kms) . up from 15% two decades ago. Worldwide. Immense waterbodies like Lake Chad (left) are simply vanishing. nearly one-third of the world's cropland (1. fertile cropland. http://dieoff. If they fail. Desalination may supply some but for most cities. Australia has emptied its vast Murray-Darling basin.• with increasingly scarce and costly fertiliser and chemicals • under the hammer of climate change. IWMI director general Colin Chartres says “Current estimates indicate that we will not have enough water to feed ourselves in 25 years time. This is already happening. The world is becoming dotted with dried up Aral Seas. plus the maintenance of biodiversity. As the human population grows.htm (1995) More than 99 per cent of the world's food supply comes from the land. shrinking rivers and groundwater or the loss of meltwater from mountain regions. evaporation from storages. Though no-one has done an accurate assessment. it appears the world may currently be losing about one per cent (50. by when the current food crisis may turn into a perpetual crisis. groundwater levels and rivers are dropping as they are pumped dry. At present. it will be cheaper and simpler to grab the farmer’s water. The Himalayan glaciers are disappearing – the only debate is how fast. 7-8 billion people will inhabit the world’s cities. They will use about 2800 cubic kilometres of fresh water – more than the whole of irrigation agriculture uses worldwide today. And the North China Plain is running out of water. whether it is rainfall over the great grainbowls. the requirements for these resources also grow. For instance.5 billion hectares) has been abandoned during the past 40 years because erosion has made it unproductive.7 billion people now and must feed twice that many in future. is being lost at an alarming rate. like aquatic About 40 percent of the world's people live in regions that directly compete for shared water resources. FARM LAND Today almost a quarter of the world’s farm land is affected by serious degradation (FAO 2008). around the world.htm (1995) By 2050. The continued production of an adequate food supply is directly dependent on ample fertile land.” (IWMI) http://dieoff. fresh water. WATER The first of these issues is the looming global scarcity of fresh water. the consequences will affect everyone. Then there is the slice of farm water that climate change is already stealing.

toxic pollution and rising sea levels. mining. There has been almost no real increase in funding of the international ag science effort since the 1970s – although the human population has doubled. “Solving erosion losses is a long-term problem: it takes 500 years to form 25 mm of soil under agricultural conditions. and the total area of land diverted to recreation and other non-food activities may rival that of the United States. world demand for food grew 15 times faster than the area of land being farmed.63 and falling.htm (1995) If we’ve already lost 24% and we lose around 1% a year from here on in. When Canadian Patrick Dery applied Hubbert’s peak theorem to phosphorus (below) he found. . 30 and even 40 million inhabitants – yet little or no internal food production capacity. The effects of all this are evident in the declining growth in world crop yields (left).less than half what is needed to keep us fed. it takes around 20 years for a piece of research to be completed. They will be in huge jeopardy from any disruption to food supplies. turned into technology or advice. CEREAL CROPS The International Food Policy Research Institute has warned of a potential 30% drop in irrigated wheat production in Asia and 15% in rice. By 2050 the total area of farm land buried under cities may exceed the total landmass of China. due to climate factors. urban sprawl. The pressure for agricultural land accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the world's deforestation. Often far longer. commercialised and adopted by millions of farmers worldwide. Generally speaking. we had passed it in 1989. to his dismay. FARMLAND NUTRIENTS Our resources of mineral nutrients are starting to fail. Many of these cities will have 20. recreation. The World Bank fears African productivity could halve and India’s drop by as much as 30 per cent. In 1900 every human had 8 hectares of land to sustain them – today the number is That the world may be close to ‘peak land’ is suggested by the UNEP graph at left. between 1990 and 2005. The gains are now below 1 per cent a year . Most replacement of eroded agricultural land is now coming from marginal and forest land.of its farmland annually – due to a combination of degradation. This is nearly all prime farm land in river valleys and on coastal plains. you can figure out for yourself how much land our grandchildren will have left to double their food supply double their food supply.” (http://dieoff. unless urgent steps are taken. Put another way.

All told. the Stockholm Institute (below) calculates we waste 2600 out of every 4600 kilocalories of food harvested. Add this to the fish deficit and we would need to discover three more North Americas to grow sufficient grain to feed all these animals. FAO (right. lakes. The majority could be gone by the 2040s they warn. All of the world's fishing grounds are facing overfishing problems. Put another way. we waste food enough to feed 3 billion. This gives some impression of the scale of the challenge of meeting global protein demand by the mid-century. seas and oceans in ways that prevent our getting more food from them. On the contrary. Each year we pump around 150 million tonnes more nitrogen and 9 million tonnes more phosphorus into the biosphere than the earth’s natural systems did before humans appeared: we have utterly modified the planet’s nutrient cycle. 2008) says “the maximum wild capture fishery potential from the world’s oceans has probably been reached” and the same applies to freshwater. FAO’s projected increase in world meat demand by 2050 is 185 million tonnes. At the other end of this equation we are ruining our rivers.According to the International Energy Agency peak oil and gas are due in the coming decade. These spell scarcity and soaring prices in the primary nutrients – N. While a billion starve. imperilling the entire marine food chain. then we will have to get the additional 100 million tonnes of meat from land animals. FISH and MEAT Per capita fish catch has not increased even though the size and speed of fishing vessels has improved. FOOD WASTE Then there’s waste. This will require a billion tonnes more grain and 1000 cubic kms of extra fresh water. If we cannot double fish production as food demand doubles. According to Nature this is one of the safe planetary boundaries the human race has already crossed. Lying in wait for us is a marine timebomb. Plagues of jellyfish in the world’s oceans signal the impact of overfishing and nutrient pollution. 29 per cent of world fisheries are in a state of collapse according to Canadian scientist Boris Worm and colleagues (2007). In developed countries we throw away from a third to half of all food produced. in developing countries we lose similar amounts post-harvest. while carbon emissions are turning them acidic. more radically even than the atmosphere or fresh water cycle. half the achievements of world agricultural scientists and farmers of the past 50 years are going to landfill. P and K – that sustain all advanced farming systems worldwide. . per capita fish production is lower than ever before because greater efficiency led to overfishing. That we may double our release of nutrients to the environment as we seek to redouble food output is alarming.

all the world now knows that safety. civil strife. If the trend continues. they say. Middle East or any of the megacities – will confront the world with tidal waves of tens. But the 50m refugees who now flee every year are now preceded by over 200 million legal immigrants – a quarter of a billion people on the move each and every year. The wars of the C21st are less likely to be global conflicts with sharply defined sides and huge armies than a scrappy mass of failed states. Future famines in any significant region – Africa. The GFN estimates we consume the total productivity of 1. Indonesia.3 Earths in food. we will be using 2 planets’ worth of production by 2050. even places that are physically remote may face refugee tides in the millions or tens of millions. even hundreds of millions of refugees. China. CONSEQUENCES . CONSEQUENCES . . water. insurgencies. Yet such vast movements are as nothing to the movements of the future. India. We must reinvent them. These are mostly people smart enough to read the signs in their home countries – and leave before disaster strikes.SUSTAINABILITY Ecological overshoot is the term used by the Global Footprint Network to describe how humanity now withdraws more resources from the planet than it is able to replace in a year. Central Asia. energy and other resources (below).WARS The UK Ministry of Defence (which developed this threat map) America’s CIA. terrorism and genocides sparked by bloody competition over dwindling resources.REFUGEES Refugee and internally displaced person numbers (left) have risen sharply in recent years. Thanks to the universal media. If the GFN is even partly correct. In future. Every nation will face heavier aid and tax burdens and soaring food prices as a result. then today’s diet and agricultural systems are not sustainable in the longer term. These will dwarf the greatest migrations of history. governments in many countries may collapse under the onrush of people fleeing regional sustenance disasters. rebellions. threatening profound change to society. If we fail to secure the world’s food supply. the US Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Oslo Peace Research Institute all identify famine as a potential trigger for conflicts and possibly even for nuclear wars. sustenance and a good life are to be found elsewhere if you have the courage and the means to reach for them.

Spain. • 2035 Energy Watch Group The Energy Watch Group has calculated that. He also predicts a major shortage of uranium sooner than 2013 accompanied with hoarding and its value pushed up to the levels of precious metals. Peak uranium is not about running out of uranium. the former environment minister of the UK 1997-2003. have already peaked their uranium production and exhausted their uranium resources and must rely on imports for their nuclear programs or abandon them. Romania. contends that supplies of the high-grade uranium ore required to fuel nuclear power generation will. . the Czech Republic. even with steep uranium prices. Pessimistic predictions for peak uranium All the following sources predict peak uranium: • 1980 Robert Vance • 1981 Michael Meacher Michael Meacher. Also. but the peaking and subsequent decline of the production rate of uranium.[114] • 2009 Rohit Ogra and Edward Moore • 2034 van Leeuwen Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen. last to about 2034. and UK Member of Parliament. Bulgaria. Peak uranium for individual nations Eleven countries. they do not predict peak uranium. at current levels of consumption. Gabon. an independent analyst with Ceedata Consulting. Optimistic predictions claim that the supply is far more than demand and do not predict peak uranium.URANIUM http://en. Tajikistan. uranium production will have reached its peak by 2035 and that it will only be possible to satisfy the fuel demand of nuclear plants until then. Germany. Pessimistic predictions of future high-grade uranium production operate on the thesis that either the peak has already occurred in the 1980s or that a second peak may occur sometime around 2035.[116] Afterwards. the cost of energy to extract the uranium will exceed the price the electric power provided. reports that peak uranium happened in 1981. they do not report changes in the production rate of uranium. Hungary. DR Congo.[10][11] Other countries have reached their peak production of Uranium and are currently on a decline. Portugal and Argentina.[117] Optimistic predictions for peak uranium Other references claim that the supply is far more than demand.wikipedia. France.


Goodstein.[5] The rate of discovery has fallen below the rate of consumption in 1980. Longwell places the peak of global gas discovery around 1970 and has observed a sharp decline in natural gas discovery rates since then."[30] The US Energy Information Administration predicts that world gas production will continue to increase through 2030.New gas discoveries Natural gas discoveries by decade According to David L.W. Declining gas discovery rates foreshadow future production decline rates because gas production can only follow gas discoveries.[4] The gap has been widening ever Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) In 2002.[31] . the worldwide rate of discovery peaked around 1960 and has been declining ever since. Bentley (p. 189) predicted a global "decline in conventional gas production from about 2020.wikipedia.[4] Exxon Mobil Vice President. World peak gas http://en. R. Harry J.

while scholarly estimates predict the peak to occur as early as 2010. when this is measured in terms of energy content. Lignite production is predicted to peak somewhere between 2050 and The estimates for global peak coal production vary wildly. as the quality of coal produced will be declining continuously the world coal energy peak is projected to come around 2025.theoildrum. Australia. global coal production can increase for 10-15 years (mainly driven by China). When we compare this with the scenarios (represented by the dashed and the solid line) from the IEA’s 2006 World Energy Outlook (WEO) we get the following graph: .[4][5] http://www. Russia. depending on future coal production rates.wikipedia. total world reserves at the end of 2002 stood at 479bn tons of anthracite and bituminous coal. Collective projections generally predict that global peak coal production may occur sometime around 2025 at 30 percent above current production in the best case scenario. but then production of anthracite and bituminous coal will peak around 2020 at a production rate around 30% higher than at present. However.[3] Global coal reserve data is generally of poor quality and is often biased towards the high side. According to the latest assessment by the WEC. China. Research in 2009 by the University of Newcastle in Australia concluded that global coal production could peak sometime between 2010 and 2048. Many coal associations suggest the peak could occur in 200 years or more. India.PEAK COAL http://en. According to the Energy Watch Group. It is also important to note that ‘peak coal exports’ should come even earlier. 272bn tons of sub-bituminous coal and 158bn tons of lignite. as lower-energy-density coals are not worth transporting long distances. South Africa) hold about 85% [5] of world coal Six countries (USA.

King Hubbert M. 2007 by the Energy Watch Group (EWG) found that global coal production could peak in as few as 15 years.World peak coal • 2150 M. Richard Heinberg also notes that the date of peak annual energetic extraction from coal will likely come earlier than the date of peak in quantity of coal (tons per year) extracted as the most energy-dense types of coal have been mined most extensively.[19] Reporting on this. King Hubbert's 1956 projections from the world production curve placed world peak coal at 2150.[20] .[17] • 2025 Energy Watch Group Coal: Resources and Future Production[18]. published on April 5.

To produce a tonne of beef takes 15. but the peaking and subsequent decline of the production rate of the water. unsuitable or otherwise unavailable for drinking. The mighty Indus and Ganges rivers are tapped so heavily that. Although the total fresh water supply is not used up.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity by There are several ways that a renewable resource like water becomes a finite resource: not returning water to the hydrological cycle. The amount of available freshwater supply is decreasing because of climate change. Rice farmers in India typically get less than half the yield per unit area and they use 10 times more water than their counterparts in China do. Eighty-six per cent of that water goes to support agriculture. and as the world population continues to rise at an unprecedented rate. which has caused receding glaciers. Growing a tonne of grain requires 1. except in rare wet years. and two thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.wikipedia. To make a single hamburger requires around 4940 liters (1.[11] That heavy use is dictated in large part by what people eat. and shrinking lakes. A current argument is that civilisation.300 gallons) of water[12] A glass of orange juice needs 850 liters (225 gallons) of fresh water to produce.[13] . A modified Hubbert curve applies to any resource that can be harvested faster than it can be replaced. Many aquifers have been over-pumped and are not recharging quickly. pollution and over-use. industrialization and urbanization all serve to increase water consumption. they tend to eat more meat. Agriculture represents 70% of freshwater use worldwide. Water tables are dropping fast in some of India's main agricultural areas. but only four per cent of its water. salted.[12] India has the largest water withdrawal out of all the countries in the world. Economic development in some ways makes matters worse.[10] Agriculture. India Further information: Water supply and sanitation in India Working rice paddies India has 20 percent of the Earth's population. man's preferred way of living for the past six thousand years.000 tonnes. If present trends continue.[5] Peak water is not about running out of fresh water. much has become polluted. many more areas are expected to experience this imbalance in the near future. peak water is inevitable given the rate of extraction. But it takes tremendous quantities of water to raise animals for food. As people's living standards rise.[7] There is concern that the state of peak water is being approached in many areas around the world.PEAK WATER http://en. they no longer reach the sea. Water demand Water demand already exceeds supply in many parts of the world. 1. is intrinsically thirsty and large populations hoping to enjoy 'civilised' life styles explains why groundwater is being exhausted so quickly. industry and agriculture. reduced stream and river flow.000 tonnes of water.[1] Like peak oil. People in India consume a lot of rice. saltwater intrusion.


aluminum wire was substituted in many applications. He argues that.000 tons annually and accelerating.wikipedia. "known reserves" grew at a rate that outpaced demand.[1] Environmental analyst Lester Brown has suggested copper might run out within 25 years based on what he considered a reasonable extrapolation of 2% growth per year.[7] Criticism In his book The Ultimate Resource 2. For example. bringing difficulties that persisted in later decades.PEAK COPPER http://en. Julian Simon extensively criticizes the notion of "peak resources".[6] [edit] New copper discoveries 56 new copper discoveries have been made during the past three decades. during a copper shortage in the 1970s.[1] Based on 2006 figures for per capita consumption.[1] World discoveries of copper peaked in 1996. even though "peak copper" has been a persistent scare since the early 20th century.[citation needed] [edit] Copper supply Globally. and uses copper as one example.[3] Copper demand is increasing by more than 575.[4] China accounts for more than 22% of world copper demand.[5] For some purposes. . economic copper resources are being depleted with the equivalent production of three world-class copper mines being consumed annually. other metals can substitute. Tom Graedel and colleagues at Yale University calculate that by 2100 global demand for copper will outstrip the amount extractable from the Copper demand Total world production is about 15 million tons per year.

biofuels.g. agricultural output plummeted as industrial . growing global population.[13] Of China's 617 cities. due to its high use of water and energy inputs[1]. Based on current supply and demand factors for agricultural commodities (e. Korea and Taiwan Further information: Industrialisation An interesting example of peak production is what happens to highly populous countries as they go through industrialisation.[2][3][4] The central tenet being that a point is reached. In Japan.wikipedia. Two billion people face acute water shortage this century as Himalayan glaciers melt. is subject to the same profile as oil and gas production. 300 are facing water shortages.[14] China is developing a grain deficit even with the over-pumping of its aquifers. Farmers cannot compete economically with industry for water in China.[15] Some predict that China will soon become the World's largest importer of grain. Grain production in China peaked in 1998 with 392 million Peak wheat is the concept that agricultural production. Korea and Taiwan. [16] [edit] Japan. In many.[6][7][8] China Further information: Peak water Water is a necessary ingredient for food production. 2001. these shortfalls can be filled only by diverting water from agriculture. changing diets in the emerging economies. declining acreage under irrigation.[12] Water shortages in China have helped lower the wheat harvest from its peak of 123 million tons in 1997 to below 100 million tons in recent years. The annual deficits have been filled by drawing down the country's extensive grain reserves and now has been forced to turn to depend on the world grain market. stagnant farm productivity growth).sufficient to double crop prices in 7 years. beyond which agricultural production plateaus and does not grow any further.PEAK WHEAT http://en.[5] In fact production may even go into permanent decline. But it fell below 350 million tons in 2000. the "peak". and 2002 and has been falling since. some commentators are predicting a long-term annual production shortfall of around 2% which based on the highly inelastic demand curve for food crops could lead to sustained price increases in excess of 10% a year .

output rose . .a combination of the loss of arable land and competing claims by industrial processes on water for irrigation.

Even climate change. . for all its menacing potential.SUMMARY Solving the challenge of global food insecurity should be the paramount concern of all nations and all people in the coming three generations. The global financial crisis is trivial in comparison. is less immediately pressing.

common bees are being overrun by bees that do not effectively pollinate. Using coal to make fertiliser does not seem smart. an N scarcity is also on the cards. but they will come our way. Already in Asia. as its contribution to climate change is to create more drought and hence lower crop yields. Australia is the last haven of disease-free bees. . A parasite is devastating world bee populations and species. ENERGY GAS Natural gas will also peak shortly and since it helps make 97 per cent of the world’s nitrogenous fertilizer. Australia and NZ have had to supply fresh breeding bees to England to revive the bee populations.BEES.

com/2010/01/preparing-for-peak-oil-peak-water-peak.html .PEAK OIL http://www.survivepeakearth.

energybulletin.PEAK PHOSPHORUS .

net/node/52857 .PEAK FISH http://www.energybulletin. .ncbi.PEAK FOOD http://www.