The study notes that there's plenty of ongoing research into things like advanced composite materials. But substitution can be a slow process and performance can suffer in the meantime.
That's troubling, they note, because the risks of materials disruptions are real — even if they're only temporary. "No country or region, in fact, has substantial deposits of everything; platinum comes largely from South Africa and Russia, copper from Chile and the United States, strontium from China and Spain, and so on." Case in point: China now dominates the supply of "rare earth" metals — when it throttled exports, other countries had to scramble to adjust.Read it all here. The full report of the Proceedings study is worth reviewing for those really interested in the problem. You should also check out Plummer's previous discussions of China's stranglehold over rare metals here as well as his post on how nations responded when China started to limit exports of these here.
"The consequence," the authors conclude, "is that modern technology is dependent on resources from every continent other than Antarctica, a situation that increases the potential for geopolitical machinations as far as resources."
So what do we do about this?