The World in 2050: Economics and Resources

This is a second post on Laurence Smith’s new book, The World in 2050.  I posted previously about demographic projections, but the economic and resource projections are also notable.  Here are some important ones:

  • Conventional oil is at or near its peak.  Remaining oil will be increasingly expensive to obtain.
  • Even with improved efficiency, India will nearly have to double its water supply due to population increase and economic growth.
  • U.S. GDP will triple by 2050, but will be less than China’s and only about a third more than India’s.
  • Unless current trends change, coal demand will triple by 2050, will natural gas demand will double.  The biggest natural gas reserves are in Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
  • The flow in the Colorado River will decrease by 10-30%.
  • Areas on the Northern Rim — ranging from Minnesota to Germany to Russia to parts of China — will experience more favorable climates and corresponding growth; there will also be significant growth further north but this will be limited due to issues relating to permafrost and (despite warming) limited accessibility by sea.

These projections are less certain than demographic ones, simply because population trends have significant inertia over a few decades.  But the economic and resource trends highlight major challenges over the next few decades.

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