It has become something of a truism to say that the greatest threats facing humanity today are linked to climate change. The world’s primary food producers are on the brink of catastrophe, some are already experiencing it. In rain-fed agricultural areas of rural Punjab, farmers are coping with the twin burdens of an energy and and a water crisis. In the absence of any reliable surface water, they need affordable and reliable energy to pump groundwater for irrigation. As more farmers seek to expand their arable lands by pumping ever greater volumes of groundwater to the surface, the water table drops. This vicious cycle makes it both more expensive and less reliable to irrigate crops. Food insecurity isn’t just a problem for farmers’ trying to maintain a decent livelihood, however, it has severe consequences for the entire food chain.
In Europe, growing demands for energy place ever greater demands on an ageing energy infrastructure. Smart technologies offer the potential to extend the life of some of the infrastructure to enable us to plan more effectively for future needs, but ultimately, changes in consumption patterns is the only genuinely effective and sustainable response. It isn’t clear whether European communities are prepared or willing to embrace significant changes in their energy consumption volumes or patterns. This is not a principle area of research for me, but it is a major cause for concern personally.