A3.9 Resource Depletion


We have a variety of natural resources, which are classed as renewable and non-renewable.

Renewable resources include water and wood. We have an abundant and replaceable supply of such resources.

Non-renewable resources include coal, gas and metals. These resources are available in a finite supply and once they have been used, then are simply gone.

At present, we are reliant on non-renewable resources, which we are using up at a fast rate. Predicting how long the reserves we have left will last is not an exact science. There is the possibility that we might discover new reserves, we may move towards alternative technologies that mean the reserves last longer than expected, or conversely the use may increase due to additional countries developing industrially, which will deplete resources quicker than expected.

However, estimates will still provide an indication of the seriousness of the situation. According to British Petroleum, the total identified or proven world…:

  • Total world proved oil reserves reached 1700.1 billion barrels at the end of 2014 sufficient to meet 52.5 years of global production.
  • The largest additions to reserves came from Saudi Arabia, adding 1.1 billion barrels. The largest decline came from Russia, where reserves fell by 1.9 billion barrels. OPEC countries continue to hold the majority of the world’s reserves, accounting for 71.6% of the global total. South Central America continues to hold the highest (R/P) ratio, more than 100 years. Over the past decade, global proved reserves have increased by 24%, or over 330 billion barrels.

 Source: http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy/oil-review-by-energy-type/oil-reserves.html


The BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2015 is available here: bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2015-full-report


The stance on oil reserves is echoed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which states that “there are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world’s major fields, which at present rates of consumption will be sufficient to last 40 years”.

It is also important to remember that resources once considered renewable, are in fact not so. For example, fish were considered renewable, as they are a natural resource that breeds and repopulates. However, we have fished the oceans to the extent that several species are declining in numbers. Forests are also an example of this, where we have cleared areas of the rainforest at such as rate they are disappearing forever, as are the species that rely on the habitat they provide.