- Joint Program Reprint
- Journal Article
Global economic and population growth are driving energy, land, and water use, and there are complex connections between the use of these resources and the world’s climate and natural environment. A significant engineering challenge is to develop and deploy technologies that reduce human impact on the environment and make better use of resources while remaining robust in the face of unavoidable environmental change. Without significant changes in resource use patterns, projections indicate that fossil fuel use will continue to rise, more land will be converted for crops, and water stress will increase in many areas already subject to water shortages.
Even in the absence of climate and environmental change, these trends would lead to stress on water resources and natural systems as well as temperature increases of 3°C to as much as 8°C depending on the region and climate sensitivity. Higher global temperatures would be associated with an overall increase in global precipitation (because a warmer climate speeds up the hydrological cycle, meaning more evaporation and more precipitation), but water runoff in many already water-stressed areas could be reduced, contributing to further water stress, with consequences for energy and food production.
This short paper presents a review of several key aspects of current global development to quantitatively describe how economic development drives energy, land, and water use and how the use of these resources may affect climate and the availability of resources.
© 2015 National Academy of Engineering