Year 2030 the Start of Worldwide Famine? Peak Phosphorus
Now a detailed projection of phosphorus production by two Australian researchers indicates that world phosphate rock production will most likely peak in 2027.
Phosphorus and its compounds are used in fertilisers, animal feed, detergents, and metal treatment operations. More than 80 percent of the phosphorus produced is utilised in fertilisers to assist in crop production, resulting in increased yields of up to 50 percent. Without the use of fertilisers it would be difficult to provide sufficient food for an expanding world population, which is projected to grow from around 0.9 billion in 1850 to 9 billion in 2050.
While some larger institutions and agencies (USGS) say that our supply will last 300 years or so, many independent researchers place peak phosphorus around the year 2030.
With many countries becoming more developed, the demand for meat rises. A diet containing meat uses 3 times more phosphate than a vegetarian diet. Biofuels are also demanding more phosphate as it requires large areas of farm land.
90% of phosphorus reserves are found in only a handful of countries; USA, China, South Africa, Jordan and Morocco. Of those, Morroco controls 85%. The USA only has 25 years left of reserves, currently America imports most of its phosphorus from Morocco. China has already placed large tariffs on exporting phosphorus mined in their borders.
Meanwhile, billionaires are buying up huge amounts of farm land all over to capitalize on the population boom over the next 30 years and to satisfy the rising middle class and their demand for meat.
While there are ways to recycle phosphorus (animal and human waste) we are still depleting our reserves at an alarming rate. Also worrying is that only 20% of phosphate is utilized in farming with 80% wasted. Much of running off into bodies of water and creating algae blooms by depleting oxygen and threating marine life. Lake Erie has a yearly battle with the blooms Lake Erie Algae Blooms
So will we reach the peak in 2030? If the government knew we were going to reach peak in just 15 years, would they tell us, or just claim that we have more to pacify us? Even a worse thought, would they want to wait to fix the problem as a means of population control (maybe a stretch?). It was just in 2011 that the USGS increased the number from 17.63 billion tons to a shocking amount more, 71.65 billion tons in reserves.
One thing is for sure, peak phosphorus is inevitable and there is a lot of disagreement between independent scientists and large agencies on when it will occur.
Pedro Sanchez, director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center at the Earth Institute, does not believe there is a shortage of phosphorus. “In my long 50-year career, “ he said. “Once every decade, people say we are going to run out of phosphorus. Each time this is disproven. All the most reliable estimates show that we have enough phosphate rock resources to last between 300 and 400 more years.”
In 2010, the International Fertilizer Development Center determined that phosphate rock reserves would last for several centuries. In 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey revised its estimates of phosphate rock reserves from the previous 17.63 billion tons to 71.65 billion tons in accordance with IFDC’s estimates. And, according to Sanchez, new research shows that the amount of phosphorus coming to the surface by tectonic uplift is in the same range as the amounts of phosphate rock we are extracting now.