Securing the Future of Water, Energy and Food: Can solutions for the currently stressed countries provide the direction for ensuring global water sustainability and food security in the 21st century?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 12:05 PM
Naresh Devineni, CUNY City College, New York, NY, United States and Upmanu Lall, Columbia Univ, New York, NY, United States
Where will the food for the 9 billion people we expect on Earth by 2050 come from? The answer to this question depends on where the water and the energy for agriculture will come from. This assumes of course, that our primary food source will continue to be based on production on land, and that irrigation and the use of fertilizers to improve production are needed to address climate shocks and deteriorating soil health. Given this, establishing an economically, environmentally and physically feasible pathway to achieve water, energy and food security in the face of a changing climate is crucial to planetary well-being. A central hypothesis of the proposed paper is that innovation towards agricultural sustainability in countries such as India and China, that have large populations relative to their water, energy and arable land endowment, and yet have opportunity for improvement in productivity metrics such as crop yield per unit water or energy use, can show us the way to achieve global water-food-energy sustainability. These countries experience a monsoonal climate, which has a high frequency of climate extremes (more floods and droughts, and a short rainy season) relative to the developed countries in temperate climates. Global climate change projections indicate that the frequency and severity of extremes may pose a challenge in the future. Thus, strategies that are resilient to such extremes in monsoonal climates may be of global value in a warmer, more variable world. Much of the future population growth is expected to occur in Africa, S. America and S. Asia. Targeting these regions for higher productivity and resilience is consequently important from a national security perspective as well. Through this paper, we propose to (a) layout in detail, the challenges faced by the water, energy and food sectors in emerging countries, with specific focus on India and China and (b) provide the scientific background for an integrated systems analytic approach to formulate solutions at varying scales that can be employed globally. Such coordinated analyses is important for an examination of the future water sustainability in the face of changing climate, agricultural trends, environmental impacts and new energy choices.