Global resources and risk

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The evidence for resource constraints (Jones et al, 2013) and environmental boundaries (Rockstrom et al, 2009) is now overwhelming yet, perhaps surprisingly, the global economy remains relatively blind to this issue. Our research work brings together the latest evidence on limits to growth and resource constraints

Background

In 1972 the Club of Rome produced a report, The Limits to Growth. This used systems dynamics theory and computer modelling to analyse the long-term causes and consequences of growth in the world's population and material economy. Twelve scenarios from the World 3 computer model showed different possible patterns of world development over the two centuries from 1900 to 2100. These illustrated how world population and resource use interact with a variety of limits.

By specifying major changes in policies the model can generate scenarios with an orderly end to growth followed by a long period of relatively high human welfare. However, in every realistic scenario the model found that the limits force a collapse sometime in the 21st century. The report attracted significant controversy and rejection of its scenarios. However, the data available to the present day agrees worryingly well with the projections (Turner, 2008).

What we're doing now

The GSI's associated work with the Institute of Actuaries brings together the latest evidence on limits to growth and resource constraints. It explores the potential impact of resource constraints on the global economy and society through the use of scenarios. 

For every resource examined, the overall trend is one of more expensive extraction and increasing prices. In addition, the environmental damage caused by the use of these resources is becoming increasingly expensive – in particular climate change and biodiversity loss.

Find out more

Our Global Resource Observatory investigates how the scarcity of finite resources will impact on social and political stability in the short term.

We've also published a number of reports under this research theme.