For decades researchers have attempted to calculate whether humankind has reached a “peak” rate of extraction for many of our most critical natural resources, from fossil fuels to staple crops, and whether these peak-rate occurrences could portend future shortages of these vital materials. But seldom have these studies examined the peak rate for multiple resources at once — and how this potential interconnectedness might make it more difficult for society to adapt to future resource scarcity.
In a new study
, co-authored by Yale F&ES assistant professor Eli Fenichel
, a team of researchers analyzed the production and extraction rates of 27 global renewable and nonrenewable resources — including coal, gas, oil, and crops such as cassava, maize, rice, soybeans, and wheat. For 21 of these resources, a “peak-rate” year occurred between 1960 and 2010. For 16, that peak occurred between 1988 and 2008, according to the study published in the journal Ecology & Society
. Interestingly, for the high profile non-renewable resources of oil, coal, gas, and phosphate no peaks were found.
The study was led by Ralf Seppelt
, a landscape ecologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
(UFZ) in Germany.