Last year’s spectacularly high prices for oil made believers — at least temporarily — out of many previous peak-oil atheists. Even today, the persistence of $78-or-so-per-barrel oil even in a still struggling economy continues to keep the words “peak oil” on many lips.
Whether we’ve already hit that peak (as oil industry expert Matthew Simmons believes), arrive there before 2020 (which we have a “significant risk” of doing, according to the UK Energy Research Centre) or still have decades to go, there are no shortage of other peaks that could be looming in the not-too-distant future.
Which do you think will strike us first? Will it be peak oil or …
- Peak water: As with peak oil, the concern here isn’t that we completely run out of water, but can no longer access the good stuff easily (and economically). While it might seem an odd worry for a planet with a surface that’s 70 per cent water, remember that most of that’s not drinkable. Much of the stuff that is, we’re draining from underground aquifers in many places faster than nature can replenish it.
- Peak credit: Last year’s global financial meltdown saw more than a few market-watchers speculate that we have now hit the limits of credit and debt.
- Peak food: With the global population set to climb to 9 billion by mid-century and climate change expected to make agriculture even more difficult, some experts are sounding the alarm on the ability of food production to keep up with demand. Last month, Megan Clark, head of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), warned that, over the next 50 years, we’ll have to grow as much food as we have throughout the entire history of civilisation.
- Peak uranium, silver or indium: Researchers at the University of Augsburg and Yale University recently analysed our consumption of a number of critical minerals. Their conclusion? If the rest of the world catches up to just half of today’s consumption levels in the US, we’ll be left with just 19 years’ worth of uranium, nine years’ worth of silver and four years’ worth of indium.
What’s your peak pick? Let us know in the comments section below (and feel free to add any “write-in” candidate we haven’t named here).