Sense, Predict, Act

Land-Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus R&D Program

Understanding the complex nexus is vital to support effective decision-making

Global resource scarcity is transforming the world. The explosive growth in demand for resources (water, energy, food, fibre, minerals, etc.) is driven by the collision of two forces: growing populations with rising incomes against the increasing constraints on resource supply as a result of environmental degradation, land use change, increasing variability of weather conditions and resource productivity, and the threat of climate change.

This tension is illustrated by the fact that the real price increase of commodities seen over the last 10 years has outstripped accumulated major real price reductions in the preceding 100 years. Further complicating this are the complex trade-offs in and between the different resource classes embedded in the land-water-energy-food-climate-oceans nexus. By 2050 it’s estimated that 70% of the projected global population of 9 billion people will live in cities. In addition, rapid expansion of a global middle class will see demand for water, energy, food, fiber and materials increase exponentially.

The impact that decisions made about one resource have on others is critical, and understanding the complex nexus is vital to support effective decision-making. For example, determining the location, type and scale of energy generation can significantly influence water demand. Cultivating biofuels can displace food production. The way water is sourced, distributed and consumed can raise or lower energy requirements. Choices made about food and diet influence both water and energy needs and choosing how to feed a population of 9 billion will place further stress on the oceans.