In a series of articles, BBC correspondents explore the forecast [made in March 2009] by UK chief scientist John Beddington, of a “perfect storm” of food, water and energy shortages in 2030. They also consider what scientists and members of the public can do to help avert a crisis.
As the world’s population grows, competition for food, water and energy will increase. Food prices will rise, more people will go hungry, and migrants will flee the worst-affected regions.
That’s the simple idea at the heart of the warning from John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, of a possible crisis in 2030.
Specifically, he points to research indicating that by 2030 “a whole series of events come together”:
- The world’s population will rise from 6bn to 8bn (33%)
- Demand for food will increase by 50%
- Demand for water will increase by 30%
- Demand for energy will increase by 50%
He foresees each problem combining to create a “perfect storm” in which the whole is bigger, and more serious, than the sum of its parts.
[In a March 2009, Beddington told the BBC that there was a growing awareness about climate change and the impending food and energy crises, but not that the water crisis was still not being taken seriously enough]. [In particular he stressed that] the growth of cities will accelerate the depletion of water resources, which in turn may drive more country dwellers to leave the land.
[One of the experts the BBC consulted to react to Beddington's prediction was Prof Jules Pretty of Essex University]. [He said']: “The general premise, that we have a number of critical drivers coming together, is correct. The date 2030 is rhetorical. We don’t know whether things will become critical in 2027 or 2047, no-one has any idea, but within the next generation these things are going to come to pass unless we start doing things differently. That is the urgency of this set of ideas. When governments talk about reducing emissions by X% by 2050, I despair. We need to do it by next week. Humankind has not faced this set of combined challenges ever before.”
Read more: Stephen Mulvey, BBC, 24 Aug 2009