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Putting phosphorus first: The need to know and right to know call for a revised hierarchy of natural resources

: Wellmer, F.-W.; Scholz, R.W.

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Resources 6 (2017), No.2, Art.20
ISSN: 2079-9276
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IGB ()

The aim of this paper is to develop two concepts regarding phosphorus that will serve as a contribution fulfilling the call for intergenerational equity: to improve knowledge of future resources and to develop a framework by setting priorities for maximizing availability with a hierarchy of natural resources. The increasing human demand for minerals and metals is causing persistent concern about long-term supply security. This holds true particularly for phosphorus. Phosphorus is bioessential; it cannot be substituted. There are no unlimited resources for phosphorus. The question of how large the reserves are and the potential for finding additional reserves and resources for a long-term supply are, therefore, of interest to numerous stakeholders, from governments to individuals. We examine governments' needs and individuals' rights to know private exploration data. Because of the essential nature of phosphorus, we emphasize the public's special right to know as much as possible about phosphate reserves, resources and the geopotential for new discoveries, based upon the basic human right to feed oneself in dignity. To fulfill the call for intergenerational equity, however, knowledge alone is not enough; guidelines for management have to follow. This can be achieved by defining a hierarchy of natural resources for setting priorities. For humankind's technological and cultural development, a sufficient supply of energy resources must be considered the key element; therefore, efforts to maximize information that will enable best decisions to be made have been the strongest. A hierarchy of natural resources with fossil and nuclear energies at the top was proposed. However, with the new development of renewable forms of energy and the decreasing role of fossil-fuel energy, the hierarchy of natural resources that defines priorities must be revised. We propose a hierarchy that replaces fossil-fuel energy at the top with phosphorus.