We need a global framework that follows China’s leadby Dambisa Moyo / June 20, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
If I ruled the world, I would address the biggest threat to economic progress and political stability over the next decade: scarcity of resources. As an economist and author, I have travelled to every continent over the past two years, and the one common issue faced by every country I visited is the coming shortages of key commodities.
Although many countries have created strong economic growth and made significant strides in moving hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the risk from commodity shortages promises to put a dent in all this good news. The world’s dwindling supplies of land, fresh water, energy and minerals—essential for food and “white goods” such as mobile phones, cars, televisions and washing machines—cannot meet the pressures rising from global demand.
Three key factors drive this skyrocketing demand: the rising world population, expected to grow from roughly 7bn today to 9bn in 2050; increasing global wealth, with an estimated additional 3bn people expected to join the ranks of the middle class by 2030; and a marked trend toward urbanisation. Demographers predict that the number of urban dwellers will rise from 3bn today to 5bn by 2025, each of whom will demand better quality foodstuffs and modern conveniences that act as a draw on the world’s resources.
On the supply side, arable land, drinkable water, energy and minerals are finite, scarce, and rapidly depleting.
Take land—the Earth contains approximately 13bn hectares of land, or an area about 16 times the size of the United States. Of that, just 11 per cent is suitable to grow crops. With the world’s population exploding, there will be many more people looking to live on a shrinking amount of land.
Water, on the other hand, accounts for 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface area. However, only 0.007 per cent of the total volume is easily accessible fresh water that can be used for drinking and sanitation. In regards to energy, today we are living off oil d…