Solutions to Global Scarcity in 2030: A Way Forward?


October 12, 2013 06:16 EDT

What challenges does the world face for 2030?

By 2030, technology will have advanced at a rate far beyond the predictive capacity available today as technology expands in efficiency at an exponential rate.

As a result, technology will meet limits in terms of physical constraints. New technology will create a need for organizational structures that assuredly do not promote discrimination or abusive cyclical patterns, which are a feature of some parts of today’s marketing system — especially in agriculture and other markets whose products are necessary to the sustenance of a nation.

Issues of planning are often understood in goals and the timeframes available for achieving them. The primary problem of scarcity in any situation is dealing with unexpected issues in a way that does not hamper already made plans.

In the worst of these situations, the need for sacrifice, a word whose connotations are of cumbersome alterations to the quality of life of the probable billions affected, is present. Risk assessment as practiced by any responsible government entity reflects the concern for three major needs of the people: somewhere to live, something to eat and something to do.

Climate Change

Climate change is the most urgent issue facing the world for 2030. Difficulties posed by climate change stem from a rapid digenesis of typical annual weather patterns, which construct once endurable but now a dangerous set of events posed by strengthening weather incidents like super storms, droughts and steadily decreasing biodiversity levels, and the slow loss of arable and livable land. Poverty in Asia and Africa increases their susceptibility to negative impacts from climate change.

Further technological solutions to the negative impacts resulting from climate change follow from Ecological Engineering, a paradigm like biomimicry – the observation of nature and its systems-cognizant approach in constructing new forms of architecture and energy organization. Advances in this field are ecosystem restoration, artificial ecology, biomanipulation and ecosystem rehabilitation.

Constructing synthetic versions of destroyed ecosystems or rehabilitating ailing ecosystems creates positive impacts against the depleting ozone layer via increasing oxygen levels and biodiversity. This results in moving the world closer to a global zero-sum model of resource usage. An emphasis on short-term gain in the products of resource usage will make solving the problems in the future very difficult without quick radical changes.

Resource Strain

Water availability is a constant worry in some places. The available supply of water at current levels of efficiency in use represents a 40 percent gap in meeting demand in 2030. In less developed regions (South Africa, Brazil, India and China), costs of $19 billion annually until 2030 will close their water supply gaps, costing 0.6 percent of their GDP.

In applying a similar model to the global arena (generally more developed with less need for improvement in the supply and efficient demand for water), spending of $50 billion per year closes the need gap for water. To ensure no risk to future water supply technologies that must be adopted are efficient irrigation techniques like no-till farming, sprinkler and drip irrigation, and crops genetically modified against pests.

Energy is one component of a highly interconnected system that supports life. Water is critical in the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, and the likely potential for its development into a sustainable system makes other components of the Nexus more secure against strain. Electricity is a low-risk problem. A high-risk problem more salient to climate change is the emphasis on oil and natural gas as durable markets from an economic standpoint, as these products more heavily impact the climate.

As energy demands grow, even in a burgeoning era of sustainable technologies and climate conservation, nations will sometimes forgo sustainable energies in favor of cheap oil and gas as current infrastructure more easily consumes oil as opposed to renewable energies. The disproportionate impact on less-developed countries is an increase in difficulty making energy more efficient while simultaneously meeting energy needs. Emphasis on needed oil hamper gains in water efficiency as an increase in the demand for oil inefficiently makes use of water.

Materials used in technologies are themselves issues of scarcity. The technological solution to resource strain as it affects technologies is to create new technologies; the forecasting of such strain is predictable only as far as the availability of particular materials exists.

Finding new ways to recycle materials used in plastics for constructing new plastics solves some problems of petrochemical creation. Given a future increase in US oil production, this solution is likely to be the easiest to achieve as demand for petro-products increases investment into technologies used in its construction.

Nations like China own much of the available mineral resources and inadvertently prompt trade lawsuits largely based in the necessity of such minerals in global value chains. Working with nations like China is the only real solution for material strain, as these materials are necessary for the construction of technologies whose uses are critical in the prevention of every other problem solvable by technological means.


Access to food has little correlation with technological solutions so even as developing technologies become more efficient, general malnutrition is only staved off by cost decreases resulting from increasing technological efficiencies and subsequent changes in the supply side of the food market.

Efficiency rates for food production, especially in agricultural methods, are increased by technological advances in agricultural techniques.

Rapid Urbanization

Risks in this area are indicative of very problematic issues. Technologies for this sort of development depend on online or closed-circuit information technologies whose susceptibility to cyber vandals will expose access to whatever information and facilities are controlled therein. Instances of such attacks can only be modeled against current attacks in the cyber-world where digital information is becoming a higher value target for use in economic sabotage, and in this instance, local security.

The cultural change surrounding rapid urbanization reflects societal globalization over the last 30 years – depending on international global bodies for stability in a national environment – and this is mirrored by cities employing holistic management from the top-down while simultaneously demanding input from individuals in these newly urban areas.

Understanding technological solutions to global problems is itself problematic as it operates under an assumption of humanity working to bend the environment to its will.

Altogether, the notion of risk assessment is not too far from the budgeting one does on the next trip to the grocer, or the town hall meetings meant to hypothesize possible strategies for bringing work into the community. It is about planning for the rational self-interest of all peoples in the stead of your own bunker. Assessing the risk of the future motivates everyone to be involved in what needs to be done now.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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