Natural Resources in 2020, 2030, and 2040: Implications for the United States
Based on the general contention that the world is entering an intensified period of resource stress, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) asked Chatham House in July 2011 to conduct research to identify the most important natural resource trends affecting US national security over a 2020, 2030, and 2040 time horizon. The requested analysis covers water, fuel, food, and metals (also referred to as materials). The identified trends—which include patterns of demand, supply, availability, price levels, and price volatility—are shaped and influenced by emerging climate changes, evolving demographic patterns, increasing economic development, and human induced environmental degradation. The result is this report which considers how local and global availability of natural resources will affect US security interests in the medium term (to 2020) and long term (specifically 2030 and 2040). The 2020 date was selected to identify the most pressing policy relevant issues; 2030 was selected to support development of the NIC’s longer-range Global Trends series; and 2040 to support ongoing NIC projects exploring the national security impact of global food, water, and energy security.
The major assumption underpinning this analysis is that mounting prosperity in both the developed and the developing world will continue to drive increased consumer demand for key resources. At the same time, constraints in energy, water, and other critical natural resources and infrastructure, together with socio-economic shifts, will bring new and hard-to-manage instabilities. There will be an increasing risk of discontinuous and systemic shocks to 2040 as a consequence of these factors.
This report identifies potential natural resource stresses (in terms of aggregate availability, absolute prices, or rapid price changes) and analyzes their likely impact on the United States and states/regions of interest to the United States. The report also explores how these stresses will interact with one another and other pre-existing conditions, including poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions. Summary tables (Annex A) provide an overview of key resource-related threats and their potential impact on the United States and other major economies. The risk assessments are based on a continuation of today's practices and trends; alternate policy choices, market actions, and technology developments will likely change future risk assessments.
ORBIS is powered by ESPAS, the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, a unique inter-institutional project aimed at strengthening the EU's efforts in the crucial area of forward planning. ESPAS brings together the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Secretariat General of the Council of the European Union and the European External Action Service to strengthen the Union's collective administrative capacity to identify and analyse the key trends and challenges, and the resulting policy choices, which are likely to confront Europe and the wider world in the decades ahead.