Shortage of natural resources

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Increasing scarcity of raw materials
Lack of natural resources

Certain of the earth's resources, such as oil and coal, are non-renewable and sooner or later will be completely exhausted. Although other resources, such as plant crops, cattle, fish and timber, renew themselves and can be regularly cropped to provide the food, clothing and shelter essential to human survival, it is not so clearly realized that these resources are renewable only to the extent that their use is rationally planned and managed. There are limits to the extent to which we can draw on these resources; if these limits are are exceeded, this will destroy the capacity of resource renewal.


At the current rate of consumption, oil will run out in about 30 years' time, tin, cadmium, lead and zinc in 40 years, copper, antimony and nickel in about 70 years. Most current utilization of aquatic animals, of the wild plants and animals of the land, of forests and of grazing lands is not sustainable.

Counter Claim:

1. It is simply wrong to believe that nature sets physical limits to economic growth -- that is, to prosperity and the production and consumption of goods and services on which it is based. The idea that increasing consumption will inevitably lead to depletion and scarcity, as plausible as it may seem, is mistaken both in principle and in fact.

2. The World Resources Institute, in a 1994-1995 report, referred to "the frequently expressed concern that high levels of consumption will lead to resource depletion and to physical shortages that might limit growth or development opportunity." Examining the evidence, however, the institute said that "the world is not yet running out of most nonrenewable resources and is not likely to, at least in the next few decades.

Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
01.12.2017 – 12:04 CET
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