Energy- Water- Food Nexus
The energy-water-food nexus, as it is impacted by climate change, affects housing, health, education, and national security.
When communities, cities, and states are devastated by climate-related damages, their energy can be disrupted, their water contaminated, and their food supplies impaired. Whatever the cause of the climate disaster- hurricanes, floods, typhoons, droughts, wildfires, rising sea levels, strong winds that blow down transmission lines or other extreme weather events- the loss of electricity means no heating or cooling, no refrigeration for food or medicines, no lights or working appliances, no way to charge batteries for communications and seek help, and an isolation that can strike fear and anxiety in children, the elderly, and vulnerable populations. Even gas stations need electricity to pump gas.
Water security is one of the greatest challenges of our times. With national water stress levels already dangerously high, climate-related disasters can be a matter of life and death. The responsible management of water resources will only grow in importance as climate shifts the patterns of rainfall in different regions, causing new patterns of drought or flooding. Disasters will strike at various places that may not have anticipated such impacts in the past. One hundred- year floods happening every few years, drying aquifers, and droughts that threaten daily drinking water are no longer on the horizon; rather, they are happening today. There can be no security of the person, property, or the life-sustaining ecological support systems without addressing the water challenge.
At the same time, the adverse impacts of climate-related disaster can harm food production, as crops are destroyed, perhaps for an entire season, supply chains are interrupted, and food storage capacity deteriorates. As the population grows quickly in the next three decades, the need for higher yields per hectare and the need for more crops per drop will test the scientific and farming communities in new and fundamental ways. Food security must be considered in a holistic way, one that accounts for every step in the food production and distribution system.
The energy, water, food nexus is vital to security. Without such security, it is predictable that the rise of substantial numbers of climate refugees will dramatically increase.