There are many things that we take for granted in our everyday lives that the world is currently running out of, or is going through fairly severe shortages of due to a variety of reasons. If–and for many of these things, when–we run out of the following products, the global economic implications will be pretty severe in a myriad of ways for corporations, employees and consumers alike. Try and enjoy the following ten products while you can, because they very well could be gone sooner than you might think.
10: Wine Grapes
Grapes require a particular climate to grow properly, just like virtually any other crop. Due to this requirement and because the world’s climate is going through comparatively rapid changes due to the ill-effects of climate change, grape production is struggling to meet the demands of the global markets. Bad weather due to a shift in climates for the areas that produce most of the world’s wine–France in particular–caused the world output of wine to drop by 5% in 2016. This is not a freak occurrence, unfortunately, as the changing weather patterns will have an ongoing negative impact on the production of wine.
Fortunately, we are not likely to see or feel any real impact for quite a few years. There will continue to be wine shortages unless something is done, but many vineyards and wine manufacturers keep stores of excess product for when there are unforeseeable shortages. These stores will last for several years.
The problem is that the effects of climate change are not going to go away overnight, and the demand for wine is actually increasing despite the lowered output from vineyards worldwide. This will have a negative impact on anyone in the wine industry if something does not change soon.
Markets Affected: Wine
In 2014, experts predicted that the chocolate market would see massive shortages by the year 2020, and we are quickly heading that way. 2016 saw more than an 180,000 ton supply deficit and the same year also witnessed more than half of the cocoa beans produced in the Ivory Coast–the region that produces the most cocoa beans for the world markets–being rejected by exporters due to their abnormally small size and high acidity.
If the demand-and-supply of chocolate keeps taking the path that it is, this will have a huge impact on chocolate manufacturers and consumers alike. Chocolate prices will likely soar to adjust for the low supply and high demand of this popular sweet treat. Chocolate might seem like a trivial thing for the world to lose comparatively, but the chocolate industry is a multi-billion dollar per year industry, so this loss would actually have massive implications in the financial world.
Markets Affected: Chocolate / Candy, Health and Beauty, Beverages (Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic)
Agave is a plant that is native to Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and the nectar is used for numerous different products, such as tequila, sugar substitutes and as a binding agent in various breakfast cereals. To understand the agave shortage, we have to look at a number of different factors. Agave production was suffering from overproduction approximately ten years ago, leading to many farmers to abandon the crop in favor of something that would be more profitable for them. This led to many agave farms being destroyed and replaced with plants that were not being overproduced.
However, in the past couple of years, the demand for agave–mainly tequila–saw a massive spike in the global markets; with the United States purchasing vast quantities of tequila due to an increase in consumer demand. With the increase in demand but the decrease in production, this put a squeeze on the agave market, with farmers scrambling to plant new crops to keep up.
The agave plant takes a full five years to fully mature, so the best possible scenario would have seen the market having shortages for half a decade if it wasn’t for one ironic occurrence; it snowed in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico in 2016, killing millions of the newly matured agave plants. This agave shortage will have a negative impact on many global markets for the next five years, at the very least.
Markets Affected: Tequila, Medical (Diuretics), Food Production, Sugar-Substitutes
7: Coffee Beans
You might be surprised to learn that 2017 is the third consecutive year that the world markets have felt the effects of a coffee bean shortage. According to a report from The Climate Institute of Australia, 50% of the world’s suitable coffee farmland will be lost by the year 2050 if climate change continues to take that path that is already on. By 2080, it is predicted that wild coffee–which helps to provide researchers with genetic variations that might be more resistant to the effects of climate change–will likely go extinct.
The coffee bean shortages are having a negative impact on more than 25 million coffee bean farmers globally in addition to mega-corporations such as Starbucks, Folgers, and Lavazza among others. The coffee industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and the effects that a continuing shortage of coffee beans will be wide-reaching in the global markets. The increasing cost of coffee (and the smaller profit margins for coffee manufacturers and suppliers) will lead to an overall decrease in coffee consumption and production, which will act to depress many of the world’s economies.
Markets Affected: Coffee, Health and Beauty (Exfoliant), Culinary
The world consumes a lot of pork. This means that, as the demand keeps increasing, more and more farmland is needed to be set-aside for raising pigs. We are not likely to see the effects of pork shortages for a number of years, but when it does happen–and it will happen–the effects will be widespread and fairly catastrophic. Not just because there will be a shortage of delicious bacon, but there will be a shortage of many vital products; or, at the very least, an increase in price for many of these items.
Aside from the pork that is used for human consumption, the gelatin that comes from pork is essential in manufacturing things such as the filters used in many brands of cigarettes, tambourines, explosives, bullets, shoes, photographic film, body lotions, toothpaste, insulin, and as blood thinners.
Beef gelatin can be used as a substitute in many items, but beef gelatin is also generally more expensive, and cattle takes up even more farmable land than pigs do, making it a viable option only in the short-term.
Markets Affected: Culinary, Manufacturing, Health and Beauty, Cigarettes, Medical (Insulin, Blood Thinners, Heart Valves)
According to many researchers, the Earth’s commercial and affordable phosphorus reserves are expected to be fully depleted in by 2100 at most, and Peak Phosphorus is projected to be reached in 2030. Peak Phosphorus is a term that is used to describe the point in time when humanity reaches the absolute maximum global production rate of phosphorus as both an industrial and a commercial raw material. Phosphorus is a finite natural resource that is widespread in the Earth’s crust and which can be found in living organisms but is relatively scarce in its concentrated form. The only cost-effective production method that is currently known is the industrial mining of phosphate rock; however, only a few countries have significant reserves of phosphate rock.
When we run out of phosphorus, the effects will be profoundly disastrous on a nearly apocalyptic scale. Phosphorus is used in many applications such as matchstick heads, baking powder, as a plasticizer and as a detergent. However, phosphorus is also an essential plant nutrient and is often the limiting nutrient needed for healthy crop production.
The bulk of all phosphorus production is in concentrated phosphoric acids which are used for agriculture fertilizers, and its annual demand is rising nearly twice as fast as the growth of the human population. When we run out of phosphorus, the world’s food production will see an extreme decrease, causing a rampant, widespread increase in global hunger.
Markets Affected: Matchsticks, Detergents, Toothpaste, Food Production
4: Medical Isotopes
Medical Isotopes are isotopes that are used in various medical applications, most notably radiopharmaceuticals, which are a group of pharmaceutical drugs which have radioactivity. Radiopharmaceuticals can be successfully utilized as diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Medical Isotopes are also used–more recently–as a deuterated drug, which is currently going through medical trials for applications such as helping with diabetic kidney disease and spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury. Medical isotopes are incredibly invaluable in saving lives and improving the quality of life for numerous people worldwide.
Because of the importance of medical isotopes, it is extremely worrisome that we are quickly depleting the world supply. Medical isotopes can not be stockpiled due to their half-life, which is a mere 66 hours. There are only a handful of nuclear facilities worldwide that produce medical isotopes, and one of the larger ones–North America’s only supplier–closed in 2016.
If any of the other operating facilities were to have any shortages for any reason, the global healthcare markets would feel a powerful impact. Additionally, any patients that desperately need medical isotopes would also feel the negative consequences.
Markets Affected: Pharmaceutical, Medical
The blockade of Qatar that started on June 5, 2017, has effectively shut down the source of 30% of the world’s helium supply. Before this, Helium was still suffering from shortages worldwide. The majority of the world’s helium comes from the United States, and a significant portion of these stores of the inert gas are currently held in the Federal Helium Reserve, which is a vast underground store that is located beneath parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Despite being the most abundant elements in the world, helium is constantly being lost by escaping through our atmosphere in addition to being used in numerous different applications, ranging from leak-detection machines in manufacturing to liquid helium being used in cryogenics and even as the coolant for superconducting magnets in medical MRI scanners and NMR spectrometers.
Despite the increasing scarcity of helium and its various invaluable applications, many stores use helium to fill up balloons, which they sell for a relatively incredibly low price. Many experts agree that the amount of gas used to fill a balloon should realistically retail for around $100 USD instead of just a couple of dollars. We are not likely to see any real effects from helium scarcity in our life times; however, that does not mean we should continue using this important element as frivolously as we are currently doing.
Markets Affected: Medical, Manufacturing, Welding, Scientific Research, Flight, Deep Diving
The world’s bee population is seeing a sharp decline due to a variety of factors, such as pesticide use and habitat loss. According to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity which relied on an evaluation of more than 1,400 bee species, more than half of those species that were evaluated are on the decline and nearly a quarter are at risk of extinction. The insects that are in danger of extinction play a critical economic role as pollinators. Bees help to sustain agricultural production by effectively carrying out their task of pollinating and cross-pollinating crops.
Bees are not only crucial to our survival as a species due to the invaluable work that they do to keep our crops healthy and growing, but bees are also valuable in the production of honey (which itself is a food source) and beeswax. Honey and beeswax are used in a variety of applications, such as acting as an antioxidant, having anti-inflammatory properties, being utilized in candle production, as ingredients for cosmetics, and in various pharmaceutical applications.
If the decline in bee population does not quickly reverse, we will likely see a large decrease in the world’s production of food in addition to a number of various corporations seeing a decline in their profit-to-cost margins. Bees are more important than many people credit them to be.
Markets Affected: Food Production, Honey, Wax, Health and Beauty, Medical, Pharmaceutical
1: Clean, Fresh Water
The fresh water shortage will likely be the cause of the next great global disaster. Today, nearly 1 billion people in the developing world don’t have access to it. Despite this, many people waste water. Drinkable water is so often taken for granted by millions worldwide. Only 3% of the water on Earth is drinkable, and every living thing depends on it for survival. This fact becomes even more frightening when you realize that a majority of that 3% of drinkable water is trapped in underground reservoirs which are not easily accessible. From crop production to simply requiring water itself for survival, fresh water is so vitally important to everything we do.
Fresh, drinkable water is disappearing at an alarming rate; from being consumed, being wasted to simply disappearing as the Earth heats up. Billions of people worldwide are already feeling the effects of water scarcity, as they do not have access to drinkable water. There have even been international disputes over water, such as the conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s plans to dam the Nile.
Experts say that, as water scarcity becomes more and more widespread, the conflicts over water will just continue to escalate. When water scarcity reaches a critical point, it will likely act as the catalyst for the next global conflict as countries scramble to seize and hoard stores of fresh water for their own use and consumption.
Markets Affected: All; directly and indirectly