The WORLD model: Peak metals, minerals, energy, wealth, food and population

Harald Sverdrup, Deniz Koca, Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceedingpeer-review


In this paper we show that several metals, elements and energy resources are about to run into scarcity within the next decades, and most elements within some centuries. A new global systems model was assembled to analyse this scarcity as a continuation of the model used in the Limits-to-Growth World3 model. We show that this scarcity will lead to “peak wealth”, “peak population”, “peak costs”, “peak junk”, “peak problems” and possibly “peak civilization”, unless some urgent measures are systematically taken throughout the world. Scarcity implies that materials that underpin modern society will largely be unavailable for global mass production of goods. The material volumes that can be supplied from fossil reserves will be reduced with respect to today and all materials will go up sharply in price. The future resource supply is thus unsustainable as long as resource use continues as today. The creation of money from conversion of resources and work, as well as the current extensive borrowing from the future, cause concerns that peak oil and peak materials may lead to “peak wealth” and the end of the golden age we currently have for developed nations. Our policy recommendations are that governments must take this issue seriously and immediately start preparing for legislations that can close material cycles, optimize energy use and minimize all types of irreversible material losses as soon as possible. Forceful programs promoting extensive recycling are needed as well as special care in closing loops and reducing irreversible losses. Research efforts in this field needs to be based on systems thinking and a concerted effort is needed globally.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society
EditorsElke Husemann, David Lane
PublisherSystem Dynamics Society
ISBN (Print)978-1-935056-09-6
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventThe 30th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society - St. Gallen, Switzerland
Duration: 2012 Jul 222012 Jul 26


ConferenceThe 30th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society
CitySt. Gallen

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences

Free keywords

  • sustainability
  • metals scarcity
  • Hubbert’s curve
  • systems dynamics
  • modelling
  • burn-off time
  • natural resource
  • peak oil
  • peal metals
  • peak phosphorus
  • planetary boundaries
  • convergence
  • contraction
  • global population policy
  • EROI
  • MROI
  • peak wealth
  • golden age
  • future studies


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