Water, Food, Energy, Climate

Smart Solutions for 2050

Monday 31 March 2014, 5.48pm | RIGB

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Food, Water, Energy, Climate

The world’s population is exploding at a rate of 80 million a year. With all those mouths to feed we’re going to need a lot more food – and water and energy too. Growing food uses up 70% of the world’s freshwater, which requires pumping to where it’s needed, which in turn requires vast amounts of energy, which in turn affects the climate. Water, energy, food, climate: everything is connected.

But in the past we’ve not been very good at seeing these connections. Take meat, for example. It’s been estimated that it takes 13,000 to 15,000 litres of water to produce just one kilo of grain-fed beef (the average Sunday roast). Or look at biofuels. They were hailed as an ingenious way to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but the experts failed to see how much land used for food production they would take up, and how much Amazonian rainforest that absorbs carbon they would destroy.

In this next Intelligence Squared event in partnership with Shell we bring together an expert panel to discuss the interconnected relationships between these vital resources both globally and in the UK. What do we need to do to avert food riots, water wars and energy crises when the world’s population hits 9 billion in 2050?

Will it be bye bye burgers as we all become vegans? Are GM crops an insidious threat or will they play a major role in food and energy supplies? Are local produce and organic food just a self-indulgent lifestyle choice, when what we need is mass, sustainable intensification of agriculture? What are the alternative energy sources that best repay the high energy costs of their creation? What about biofuels? Will the next generation take off?

Join us to help evaluate which ideas should get the green light to ensure a secure and stable future for the world.


Mark LynasMark Lynas

Author and environmental campaigner. He is a frequent speaker around the world on climate change, biotechnology and nuclear power and has recently been involved in Cornell University’s programme to produce non-profit biotech crops (such as Bt brinjal and virus-resistant papaya) to promote food security and environmental sustainability.

Jay RaynerJay Rayner

Award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster. His latest book is A Greedy Man In A Hungry World: How (almost) everything you thought you knew about food is wrong. He is the Observer’s restaurant critic, chairs BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, is a judge on BBC 1’s Masterchef and the resident food expert on The One Show.

Gabrielle WalkerDr Gabrielle Walker

Writer and broadcaster specialising in energy and climate change. She presents flagship BBC radio programmes and has made many TV appearances. She is Chief Scientist of strategic advisory firm Xyntéo, a consultant to New Scientist, and contributes frequently to BBC radio and the national press.

Jeremy WoodsDr Jeremy Woods

Expert in bioenergy and biorenewables at Imperial College London. His work focuses in particular on the links between bioenergy production, land use and food security.



Matthew TaylorMatthew Taylor

Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).