EPRINC Distinguished Fellow Michael Lynch has penned a report on resource pessimism. A summary of the report is as follows:
The modern era has seen two major threads of neo-Malthusian thought: fears that agriculture cannot sustain the future population and concerns about possible scarcity of nonrenewable resources like minerals and energy. This has caused various governments to undertake population control policies, crash programs to develop substitute fuels, and even suggestions that exploitation of asteroids for their mineral resources might soon be necessary. The proposed Green New Deal was seen to be motivated in part by a concern for the finite nature of resources.
But the various apocalyptic predictions based on these theories have virtually all failed, although proponents insist that only their timing is in error, not the concept. This report finds that most neo-Malthusian arguments are based on an incorrect understanding of resource estimates, including the nature and terminology, leading to the use of woefully conservative figures which then generate the apocalyptic warnings. Combined with the assumption that, since technological advances can’t be predicted, technological progress should not be assumed, arguments that consumption must be curtailed and even that economic growth should cease are based on fallacious notions.
This paper argues that neo-Malthusians suffer from an underspecified model, not just bad input parameters but omitted variables that guarantee the pessimistic, and invalid, predictions.
Correcting these errors results in a much better understanding of resources and a more optimistic outlook for the global economy and hopefully less economic waste.
The report can be found here.