120 Gigatons – A dynamic, model-based projection of global raw material extraction levels in 2050
Mark Meyer, Martin Distelkamp
Whereas a multitude of publications already applied various Multi-Regional Input-Output (MRIO) databases for ex post assessments of national footprint indicators, only scarce ex ante assessments of plausible future scenarios have been presented so far. Based on own recent research activities in the project “SimRess – Models, potential and long-term scenarios for resource efficiency”, our paper calls for the extension of current resource policy measures: Our findings from applications of the dynamic MRIO simulation model GINFORS3 indicate that, notwithstanding a sustained increase in global raw material productivity, global raw material extractions might level around 120 Gt in 2050 in a future business as usual scenario.
Compared to previous (mostly rather static) material footprint scenarios this assessment seems to indicate a lower limit of currently available global extraction projections. However, as outlined by introductory methodological annotations on the key challenges in model based simulations of global material extraction scenarios, we conclude that our dynamic environmentally-extended global MRIO-model represents presumably one of the most appropriate methodologies to assess global extraction pathways. At least, we are not aware of many alternative approaches which address the complex interdependencies between macroeconomic industries, socio-economic systems and the environment with a comparable level of detail.
The projected outlook results are compared to own assessments of historical RMC per capita dynamics since 1995. This period witnessed tremendous increases in RMC per capita levels in countries like China and Canada but also stagnating or even slightly decreasing developments (e.g. in the US, Germany or Spain). A country-wise inspection of our material footprint projections illustrates that neither a further deepening of previous incremental decreases in raw material consumption patterns of affluent societies nor a sudden slowdown of the observed catch-up in per capita raw material consumption levels of emerging economies can be expected.