Raw materials use to double by 2060 with severe environmental consequences, says OECD

Content supplied by the OECD

The world’s consumption of raw materials is set to nearly double by 2060 as the global economy expands and living standards rise, placing twice the pressure on the environment that we are seeing today, according to a new OECD report.

A preview of The Global Material Resource Outlook to 2060 released today sees global materials use rising to 167 Gigatonnes in 2060 from 90 Gigatonnes today as the world population soars to 10 billion people and average global income per capita rises to converge with the current OECD level of USD 40,000.

Without concrete actions to address these challenges, the projected increase in the extraction and processing of raw materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals is likely to worsen pollution of air, water and soils, and contribute significantly to climate change. The increase comes despite a shift from manufacturing to service industries and continual improvements in manufacturing efficiency, which has lessened the amount of resources consumed for each unit of GDP. Without this, environmental pressures would be worse. The projection also takes account of flattening demand in China and other emerging economies as their infrastructure booms end.

The preview report, presented at the World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama, Japan by OECD Deputy Secretary General Masamichi Kono, says the biggest rises in resource consumption will be in minerals, including construction materials and metals, particularly in fast-growing developing economies.

Global material resources 2060_v3 (002)

Non-metallic minerals, such as sand, gravel, limestone and crushed rock account for more than half of total materials consumed today in Gigatonne terms. Adding other materials, the total raw materials consumed by an average family in a day would fill up a bathtub. These volumes will only become larger between now and 2060.

The recycling industry, currently a tenth the size of the mining sector in terms of GDP share, is likely to become more competitive and grow, but it will remain a much smaller industry than mining primary materials.

The report’s global environmental impact analysis of the extraction and production of seven metals (iron, aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, nickel and manganese) plus building materials concrete, sand and gravel shows significant impacts in areas like acidification, air and water pollution, climate change, energy demand, human health and toxicity of water and land.

Within this group of metals and minerals, copper and nickel tend to have the greatest per-kilo environmental impacts, while iron, steel and concrete have the highest absolute impacts due to the large volumes used.

The extraction and burning of fossil fuels and the production of iron, steel and building materials are already major contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of new emissions-cutting policies, the report says overall emissions from materials management will grow from 28 to 50 Gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent by 2060.

Download the preview report

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42 Comments

I have a rule of thumb. The worlds resource use is proportional to the cumulative sum of the population times their standard of living divided by the efficiency of our resource usage.
Accordingly we need to
- lower the population
- lower the populations standard of living
- increase our efficiency of how we use resources.

It is only this last factor that we are trying to do anything about. Our scope and achievement in this is both limited and has a logical limit. You cannot get any better than 100% efficient.
We are doing nothing about the other two factors and appear to be going hell for leather at increasing them. Clearly as this article states we are going backward. God help us at this rate because we will never achieve the hoped for G.G reduction that we know we need to avoid breaching the 2 degree temperature rise.
It is long past the time when we seriously address our population growth.

Population can be nudged lower by educating women and providing pensions. See birth rates for Iran over the last few decades.
That is were our overseas aid should be going not to bringing in refugees or teaching Afghans and Iraqi how to be policemen.

with you 150% of the way there.

Interesting to go back the same 40 odd years in this scenario of 2060 which takes us to the 1980's.

Very similar forecasts of that time can be found - yet it didn't happen.

Why - Because humans are adaptable and are able to exploit new technology and markets to change behaviour.

We didn't run out of copper for telphone wires - along came wireless for example.

We didn't run out of oil - along came fracking and horizintal drilling.

The temperature of the globe is today what it was in the medieval warm period and while it has risen about 1º since the start of the industrial age - it had fallen a similar amount in the preceding 4-500 years.

Pollution in the worlds major cities is improving year by year just as it did in London.

Life expectancy is rising around the globe with access to superior foods and medicines.

The list is endless and that's why life will carry on with ever present subtle changes in the next 40 years. We will all get richer - the issue is how the largess is shared - a more difficult problem.

The world is never going to run out of anything. Challenges there will be - but they are solvable with human ingenuity which will continue as it has to deliver a superior life style to virtually all.

Just....wow, what kind of planet do you think we live on - one with infinite mass? Never let informed analysis from the OECD get in the way of a blind belief that "she'll be right" eh?

Resource scarcity and standards of living are nothing to do with tonnes of material left in the ground - it's about the energy used to extract it. Peak oil is about fewer finds of easy to access/cheap oil, not about oil supplies running to zero. Why drill for oil if the energy required to extract it is *more* than the energy released - this is what creates low productivity and ultimately poverty.

Copper for telephone wires - come on it's not 1920, what do you think powers computers and electric motors? A better question is continued access to high grade river sand for mixing concrete (google Belt & Road concrete requirements) and elements such as zinc, nickel and several rare earths used in electronics.

Pollution is *not* declining in the worlds' major cities - that's why London, Paris, Berlin and others are all considering banning diesel cars and witness the images of the terrible smog in New Delhi, Beijing and elsewhere. Of course we all remember the drama around the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the temporary closure of local factories & power stations just to make the host city look livable.

Life expectancy is increasing after decades of work by the UN and by governments into clean water supplies, medical care to reduce infant mortality & education for women. Life expectancy is still pretty low across Africa, the Middle East & South Asia and faces an uphill battle in the face of environmental degradation of fresh water supplies, desertification and changes to crop growing seasonality from climate change.

Indeed, water wars not oil wars will become a growing phenomenon in global politics - something we need to get better at managing here in NZ with the shrill protests against water consumption charges and resistance to improved drinking water quality via chlorination etc.

Speaking of which - you clearly don't see the link between CO2 and a warming atmosphere. Releasing *billions* of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year that has remained buried since the Carboniferous Period will affect our climate. The CO2 link is already proven, the evidence is before our eyes on Venus, and your timeframe of 500 years is laughably small. Since the Industrial Revolution and we have accelerated changes in global temperature from burning fossil fuels - a hugely disproportionate impact over what is like a nano second in the history of the Earth.

"We will all get richer" - immediately contradicted by your following comment about the sharing of wealth. So no we will not *all* get richer. We already see this with the inverted funnels showing the wealth of the 1% and how even since the 1960's the Haves in the world are increasingly profiting at the expense of the Have Nots, which of course includes ex-steel workers supporting Donald Trump through to unemployed rug makers in Iran.

I await PDK's input into this debate with much interest. Meanwhile maybe you can go find a planet where everything is unlimited and you can mine, frack & burn the hell out of everything to your heart's content?

Larry 76 & PDK: you're missing the point that:

OUR PLANET MAY BE FINITE* BUT HUMAN RESOURCEFULNESS CERTAINLY ISN'T

*and we have barley scratched the surface (literally) of its resources

Clearly you are unable to read the data. Just about every important resource is at, close to or past its daily production the most important of which is oil. Next economics, once the price of energy climbs too high the economy cannot afford to pay it and goes into recession, 2008 is the best example yet (but we are looking at another right now I suspect) Human resourcefulness is nothing more than us figuring out how to get a bit more by using even more energy. Its diminishing returns.

"Human resourcefulness is nothing more than us figuring out how to get a bit more by using even more energy"

Not counting on you for the next leap forward then

Is that the same resourcefulness that continuously figures out ways to destroy, pollute and poison our living environment? Is that the same resourcefulness that encourages greed and selfishness as the building blocks to a better world? Is that the same resourcefulness that continuously designs new killing machines? Is that the same resourcefulness that tries to make and sell as much crap to each other as possible? Is that the same resourcefulness that continuously converts real wealth into money and stuff?

"Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe." - Einstein.

Why drill for oil if the energy required to extract it is *more* than the energy released - this is what creates low productivity and ultimately poverty.

Here's my thought on this particular line. If the energy being used to drill for oil is less portable than the fuel products derived from the oil, then regardless of the higher input vs output measures it's still a win. With Solar/Wind power, what happens to surplus electricity if all the batteries are full? It's much easier to grab another barrel than install another battery to capture the surplus energy product.

If my ICE powered car runs out of fuel, i can have somebody bring me a jerry can or 2 to get me going to the nearest petrol station for a 1 minute fill up.

If my EV powered car runs out of battery power, i'm calling a tow truck.

Mostly not right I believe. Drilling for oil pretty much means portable diesel generators as the wells are so far from anywhere and are only needed for the drilling. Same with offshore and deep offshore, energy is carted in.

We could also say what happens if there is a petrol shortage/rationing? oh dear ICE goes no where or not far. Are we going to have an electricity shortage? hmm a bit less likely.

ICE v EV running out, is pretty immaterial, its actually pretty unusual for someone to run out.

What is more important is the running cost of an EV v an ICE. Do 25000kms per year and you are spending over $5kNZ on petrol and maintenance v 1/10th that for an EV. So if the EV is 50k v 25k for the ICE the payback is 5 years.

Very good points. I can’t think of the last time I’ve experienced a power cut. Also, any country can generate its own electricity so not having to go bankrupt to pay another country for their energy requirements.

The only thing that makes me uneasy about the idea is the charging times, seeing people parked up at the petrol station for half an hour charging their car but I guess people can just charge at home each night and workplaces could provide charging points for their employees.

If your EV runs low you just plug it into the wall. Can’t do that with an ICE car and you can’t pump gas in a power cut either.

Free fusion energy already powers the entire planet, we just haven’t bothered to invest much yet in capturing it.

You are totally incorrect to link Venus and Earth's CO2 - there was never any " runaway " increase in temp as is believed by many.

Venus is warmer for two basic reasons. It is closer to the sun and it's atmosphere is much denser than Earths.

The well known gas laws P x V = K x T show that Temperature and Pressure are linked.

We also know for certain that the pressure at any altitude of any atmosphere is simply the mass of gas above that point x g the force of gravity.

A satellite probe into the Vesuvian atmosphere showed that the temperature at an altitude where the pressure was comparable to Earth's pressure was virtually the same temperature proving this relationship. A similar result was obtained on Jupiter.

There was never any " runaway " CO2 driven temperature increase on Venus.

It would be in breach of the well known laws of physics.

Not so. Venus is uniformly hotter than Mercury despite being further away from the Sun *because* of the composition of its atmosphere. The dark side of Mercury is freezing because it has no atmosphere.

The key difference is the CO2 density surrounding Venus - it locks in heat and creates a Greenhouse Effect, just like CO2 is gradually doing on Earth. We don’t need 400deg here on Earth - just plus 4deg to disrupt all crop growing and rainfall patterns.

The reason the surface is so much hotter on Venus is that the pressure is 45 bar !

Very well said JB

It's not as though we are shooting resources off into space, nevah to be seen again. Except, and of course, for satellites and the odd interplanetary probe. And there's a rich vein of SF devoted to the mining of old 'waste' dumps, as the new 'resource concentrations'. Pre-metal-age cultures went through one or two low-fired pots every week per family - hence the ubiquity of shards and the dating that those make possible. Our current 'consumption' of resources like nickel, lithium, copper and uranium amounts to a few decent-size holes in the ground in Australia. Nauru it ain't.

So disaster can never happen? Ask the viking settlers on Greenland. Or the pure blooded Tasmanians. Or the Easter Islanders before they cut down their last tree. Or the last Moa before it was eaten. Ask the Scottish fishermen who filled the Norfolk harbours with over 300 fishing vessels when I was a boy as they followed the shoals of cod down the North Sea. Ask Ishi the last known member of the Native American Yahi people (died 1916).
Disasters do happen; when the plane crashes only survivors write their story.

OMG, You are clearly utterly clueless or taking the micky.

We didnt run out of oil, not aware anyone but a nut job said so. The actual predictions were for production per day. Peak oil was predicted and guess what was pretty close to being on the money for the date.

"never run out of anything" in way correct, its just what is left we wont be able to afford to extract. So sure about 40% of the world's conventional oil is left the big Q is just how much we'll be able to get beofre the costs collapse the demand.

Climate change? medival warm period, utter bunkum.

The first report of the IPPC clearly identifies the Medieval warm period in their reports.

To show it was global - not local phenomenon - a NZ based academic analysed a South Island stalagmite limestone deposit using isotope ratios and showed the temperatures in NZ were comparable during the 1300 hundreds with the warmer temperatures well documented by settlements in Iceland and Greenland.

Now the IPPC has removed all references as it is an embarrassment to admit today's temperatures are no different from then as measured by the best available proxies given thermometers were not invented until the mid 1600's.

Narrow minds cannot see past oil as an energy source

Small minds don't understand energy density or EROI.

The perfect illustration from someone with no ingenuity.

Yvil and JB,
Look at how our inovation has been working for us so far - we've successfully depleated neayly all fish from the world's oceans, we've invented pollutants of every description which have filled the earth, we've caused mass extinctions and many more are expected - especially of larger creatures. Some of what we have done is irreversible. As we get more populous, we will get more deserate and our inovating will be directed at better exploiting whatever remains of our resources.

That may be the case yet we can buy all the farmed salmon we need at ever lower prices.

Bluefin tuna farms in South Australia are meeting Japan's insatiable demand.

Extinction is a perfect natural process and while I don't advocate it - the reality is that your world today is totally unchanged with the death of the last Dodo and Scottish Auk.

Well right off the top of my head, within a matter of seconds I can point to the Northern White Rhino and the Baiji (Yangtze River Dolphin) in my lifetime and beyond that all the species we have wiped out here in New Zealand. There are, of course, more, but this is just what immediately crossed my mind. And they keep coming thylacene, tarpan, European Wisent, a species of mountain lion, I believe the Eastern Cougar, just this year or last declared extinct. I think you guys are dreaming and tripping on something.
I do not accept that is okay for us to just wipe other species away because they are in our way.

Oh and the hyacinth macaw in the wild. The list is probably terrifying long, no it is not a case of nothing's changed since the Auk toesed up

Robt, if you don't like innovation and progress, you are welcome to live like 200 years ago with no electricity, stop commenting on this site (internet being one of the most recent innovation) and die from a common cold or have a surgery without anestethics. As for me, I'm happy travelling the world, living in a warm cosy house where I can cook, watch TV or communicate with almost anyone I want.
Oh, also don't forget to throw your mobile phone away

In order for everyone in the world to be able to do the same as you, we need to reduce our population to perhaps 2 or 3 billion, maybe less. We have enough knowledge to carry on with fewer of us.
If women get everywhere have control of their own future and fertility, it will happen all by itself, the better off people are, the fewer children they have. Even you know that.

Well keep warm mate. Your descendants, if we carry on the way we are, might not.

Greedy, short term thinking on your part.

The well known example of rabbit population cycles - initially low numbers, plenty of food for all and conditions are suitable for breeding, the population explodes, they consume all their food, they starve and they suffer a population crash. OK, were not exactly like rabbits, we can innovate better which could ultimately make our crash even more catastrophic. The Population Bomb was wrong on timing but not outcome.

We are close enough like rabbits in our behaviour that make no odds.

I mean really? They must have some brains in the OECD not to put 2 and 2 together. ie we are on a finite planet, we cant extract double what we already are when many are close to or past peak anyway.

Albert Einstein is said to have called "the power of compound interest the most powerful force in the universe." It applies to resources and it applies to NZ population increasing by 1.5%pa ~ doesn't sound like much until you compound it over a lifespan.

Man's biggest weakness, unable (though unwilling if posts in here are examples) to comprehend the exponential function.

Using irrationality to rationalise your own superiority.
If only we were all as so smart and enlightened in maffs as you, Steven.

So what are you saying? As an economist you can't understand simple mathematics?

It was a joke, scarfie.
A maths joke.
Steven was righteously pointing out the lack of understanding of exponential growth - at of the root of this is Euler's constant; an irrational number.
Ironically all of you mathsy people didn't get it.

Gotcha. Actually I am more designer, and think in 3D. I have a calculus paper, but that was 25 years ago! I tend to deal more in physics, thermodynamics, or fluid dynamics.

Steven - isn't that a quote from some USA prof? Worth a discussion along the lines of are our problems caused by evil or stupidity? I'm voting for both with stupidity the most common and hardest to overcome.

Yep, it has been referred to on this forum often enough. It is from a video of a 1st year physics lecture by Professor Emeritus Al Barlett. People commenting here in contravention of the mathematical principle that is just simple exponents are displaying their lack of intellect to understand it. Given it is a first year science paper, you can assume these types don't have an IQ outside of the first decile (115) and fall into the distinctly average intellectual capacity.