Colorado School of Mines: Van Tuyl Lecture Series
Water, Climate, Food, Energy, Society: A Case Study of Sri Lanka
George Hornberger, Vanderbilt Institute for Energy & Environment
Berthoud Hall 241, 4 pm
Abstract: Food, energy, and water (FEW) are primary resources required for human populations and ecosystems. The large and growing water demands for agricultural production are well known, water can be a significant constraint in electricity production, and the use of arable land for biofuels represents tradeoff decisions at the FEW nexus. Climate change will affect water availability. Increased demand for FEW resources from population growth and lifestyle changes will result in increased competition for limited resources, which will impact financial decisions. It is also important to take FEW resources into account during adaptation planning, as highlighted by recent events in the US when many citizens lost ready access to food, electricity, and drinking water in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Managing the FEW resources concurrently is a seemingly wicked problem involving an apparent trilemma from a sustainability and resiliency perspective. A core challenge is to develop an integrative understanding that embodies processes and feedbacks at a level of detail that allows evaluation of alternatives in these complex systems and therefore can support integrated management.
I will describe work that we have done on these issues in Sri Lanka. The research was supported as a project within NSF’s Water Sustainability and Climate Program. It involved a broad interdisciplinary collaboration among natural scientists and social scientists. Among other things, the results provide insights on how tradeoffs are made in times of physical water scarcity.