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Synchronized peak-rate years of global resources use

Ralf Seppelt, UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department Computational Landscape Ecology; iDiv - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research; Institute of Geoscience & Geography, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany
Ameur M. Manceur, UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department Computational Landscape Ecology; UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department Community Ecology
Jianguo Liu, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
Eli P. Fenichel, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
Stefan Klotz, UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Community Ecology; iDiv - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07039-190450

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Abstract

Many separate studies have estimated the year of peak, or maximum, rate of using an individual resource such as oil. However, no study has estimated the year of peak rate for multiple resources and investigated the relationships among them. We exploit time series on the appropriation of 27 global renewable and nonrenewable resources. We found 21 resources experienced a peak-rate year, and for 20 resources the peak-rate years occurred between 1960-2010, a narrow time window in the long human history. Whereas 4 of 7 nonrenewable resources show no peak-rate year, conversion to cropland and 18 of the 20 renewable resources have passed their peak rate of appropriation. To test the hypothesis that peak-rate years are synchronized, i.e., occur at approximately the same time, we analyzed 20 statistically independent time series of resources, of which 16 presented a peak-rate year centered on 2006 (1989-2008). We discuss potential causal mechanisms including change in demand, innovation and adaptation, interdependent use of resources, physical limitation, and simultaneous scarcity. The synchrony of peak-rate years of multiple resources poses a greater adaptation challenge for society than previously recognized, suggesting the need for a paradigm shift in resource use toward a sustainable path in the Anthropocene.

Key words

limits to growth; peak-rate year; synchrony

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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