Demand for food and energy will jump 50% by 2030 and for fresh water by 30%, he said, as the global population exceeds 8.3 billion. Climate change, Beddington added, will exacerbate matters in unpredictable ways. “There’s not going to be a complete collapse, but things will start getting really worrying if we don’t tackle these problems,” which include agricultural productivity.
The United Nations Environment Programme predicts widespread water shortages across Asia, Africa and Europe by 2025. The amount of fresh water available per person is expected to drop sharply in that time period.
“We can’t afford to be complacent” about food and energy security issues, which rose on the political agenda during a spike in oil and commodity prices in 2008. “Just because the high prices have dropped doesn’t mean we can relax,” Beddington said.
Improved water storage, cleaner energy supplies, more disease- and pest-resistant plants, and better harvesting procedures all were needed, he said. Beddington also noted that policy makers in the European Commission should receive the same high level of scientific advice as US president Barack Obama. One idea, he suggested, would be the creation of the post of chief science adviser to the commission, the European Union’s executive body.
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