What is the scarcity of resources

Climate change and scarcity of resources

Sinking metropolises, gigantic deserts, incalculable financial risks:
When it comes to climate change, scientists paint a bleak picture of the future. It is seen as one of the greatest challenges facing society.

If we do not fundamentally rethink and deal more sustainably and responsibly with the earth and its natural resources, it will eventually become not only spatially tight for many. A topic that has preoccupied science, politics and business for decades. In addition to the well-known ice age, the earth is also threatened by a hot period due to increasing global warming - and that in the course of only a few generations. The phenomenon is not only the result of human (wrong) behavior, but also a natural process.

Climate change? Of course!

Climate change describes a cooling or warming on the earth over different periods of time, regardless of whether the causes are based on natural influences or were caused by us humans.

Natural Climate Change Factors

The good news first: We humans are not to blame for everything. There are natural factors and processes that influenced the climate in different ways long before the dawn of mankind. Some of these influences reinforce each other, some neutralize each other. One of the main drivers of natural climate change is the sun. Its rays are reflected back towards space from the earth's surface. Often, however, they do not arrive there, but are instead reflected back to earth again due to natural gases such as methane or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This reflection leads to a warming of the earth - the greenhouse effect.

This is reinforced by plate tectonics. The shifting of the continental plates and the associated processes such as the formation of fold mountains lead to a change in the concentration of greenhouse gases. This has an influence on the reflection of the sun's rays to the earth and thus on the climate. Volcanoes also play their part in climate change because they affect the distribution of gases in the atmosphere when they erupt. The moon with its influence on the tides and the oceans with their changing degrees of warmth are further factors that affect the climate.

Global warming - the price of industrialization

The development of global warming, which is significantly influenced by humans, is known as global warming. Since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, we humans have been increasing the natural greenhouse effect through increased emissions of greenhouse gases. A worrying development: the warming trend of the last 50 years is almost twice as high per decade as the trend of the last 100 years. Never before in 66 million years of the earth's history have the warming phases been faster and the temperature jumps greater. If you consider that this also takes into account the warming after the Ice Age, the dramatic development becomes even clearer. Due to human influences, the rate of warming will in future be around 100 times higher than with natural climate change.

The next ice age will shift due to the changed temperature level. The heat waves that made large parts of Europe sweat in the summer of 2018 give an outlook on the way the climate could develop. Experts warn of a hot period, which carries the appropriate English term "Hothouse Earth". According to climate researchers, two degrees of warming are enough to heat the earth by four to five degrees in the long term. A feedback process with devastating consequences: In this scenario, the sea level rises by ten to 60 meters. Metropolises like New York, London or Bangkok would then simply be gone. China, India and Bangladesh would mutate into deserts, Europe would suffer from permanent drought.

Effects on trees and wood quality

At first glance, there is also supposedly good news. Trees grow faster due to climate change. The bad news: The quality of the wood is becoming inferior due to climate change. Interestingly, the corresponding samples for examining the natural raw material go back to the industrial revolution. A clear trend is emerging. The changed climate since 1900 has accelerated the growth of trees by 29 to 100 percent. At the same time, the wood of these trees has become eight to twelve percent lighter, and the trees lack substance. Researchers explain the decreasing wood density on the one hand with climate change. On the other hand, increased nitrogen levels, caused by agriculture, higher traffic volumes and the increasing degree of industrialization, contribute to this. The increasingly lighter wood is less stable and has a lower calorific value. In nature, trees with a lower wood density are more susceptible to weather influences such as snow or wind.

Priceless Oktoberfest?

"It's just getting warmer. A cold beer can help! ”- a mistake! Climate change is not only causing profound changes on a large scale, the consequences should not be underestimated on a smaller scale either. An example: The average global beer price could double as a result of climate change. Why? Due to the hot spells and the associated drought, it can be assumed that the amount of barley harvested will decrease significantly. This shortage of raw materials would lead to rising prices. As part of a study, researchers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict that the average harvest quantities of barley will decrease by three to 17 percent worldwide. This humorous beer anecdote has a serious background: the harvest losses would not stop at barley, but would also affect other raw materials. Agriculture in Central Europe would have to accept severe crop losses if the global temperature rose by two degrees. In Asia, Africa and America, the maize, wheat and rice harvests in particular would be negatively affected by the changed climate.

Climate change is really costly: According to estimates by the German Institute for Economic Research, climate change could cause economic costs of 200 trillion US dollars by 2050. A study commissioned by the British government assumes economic damage will amount to five to 20 percent of global economic output by the year 2100.

Its getting close

Another important factor in the complex of climate change are the earth's natural resources and the fact that these resources are not endlessly available. This applies both to non-renewable natural resources such as fossil fuels or mineral resources and to renewable raw materials such as water, wood, plants and animals. The reason: Renewable raw materials are often used up faster than they can grow again. In 2018, the renewable resources, which are theoretically available proportionally over the calendar year, were already used up at the beginning of August. In 2000 this time was still in September, in 1970 in December. This shows that more and more people are using up the available resources faster and faster.

Last chance for humanity?

In the meantime, many in politics, business and society agree that only a radical change of course in climate protection can stop this development, which is a threat to all of us. Others, meanwhile, see little need for action. A fundamental rethinking is necessary, however, combined with the will and awareness to end the overexploitation of the earth through a sustainable and climate-friendly way of life. In its special report from 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that it is still possible to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees. The countries participating in the World Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 agreed on this limit. In November 2016, a climate protection agreement came into force with which the countries made a binding international law commitment to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, far-reaching changes in electricity generation, transportation, agriculture, industrial processes and urban infrastructure are necessary to achieve this goal.

 

Last updated: April 2019