Friday, January 27, 2006

Measure of Metal Supply Finds Future Shortage

And some point, as the world population grows and our consumption of goods grows, the Earth will run out of natural resources. Will that be anytime soon? This article looks at copper.

Copper is used in everything from automobiles to ordnance. Copper is relatively scarce compared to other metals like iron or aluminum that make up a good portion of the earth itself. So copper serves as an excellent metallic bellwether for potential future resource scarcity. Based on current discovery rates and existing geologic surveys, the researchers estimated that 1.6 billion metric tons of copper exist that could potentially be brought into use.

The researchers went on to examine per capita use of copper in the U.S. and other developed countries. While some theorists had predicted that metal use would decline as economies advanced beyond building metallic infrastructure, the teams' data showed that overall copper use in the U.S. climbed to a high of 238 kilograms per person by 1999. Declines in areas like manufacturing and railroads were more than offset by increases in areas like motor vehicles and domestic devices. In fact, residents of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. required an average of 170 kilograms of copper per person. Multiply that by overall population estimates of 10 billion people by 2100 and the world will require 1.7 billion metric tons of copper by that date--more than even the most generous estimate of available resources.
At our current consumption rate, we will run out of copper a little before 2100. Probably not something my generation needs to worry about, but the generation after that will.

Via Scientific

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