GSI launches energy and food 'shocks' network

Published: 29 June 2015 at 15:17

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have secured funding to investigate how the key resources of food, water and energy are linked, and how a “shock” to one can affect the others, as well as society as a whole.

Led by Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), the £20,000 grant from The Nexus Network, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will bring together academics, policymakers and business experts in a new Nexus Shocks Network to analyse:

  • The specific nature of risks to water, energy and food.
  • The extent to which these three resources are interdependent.
  • The impacts of cascade effects and the consequences on welfare, economic growth and wellbeing.

Current models are limited in their ability to forecast shocks which can lead to the implementation of sector or country-based policies, such as export bans, which then increase the negative impacts of the shocks.

The sectoral nature of these models means they fail to capture the relationship between inequality in accessing resources, political instability and migration.  An example of this is how the rise in the number of refugees from civil conflict increases the likelihood of food crises in host countries.

Project leader Dr Candice Howarth, Senior Research Fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute, said:

“Resources which are limited yet fundamental for human development, such as fossil fuels, water and land, are depleting at a faster pace than the planet can replenish, while human activities are damaging ecosystems and leading to climate change. 
“The last decade was characterized by more frequent and disruptive weather events, such as Typhoon Haiyan and Hurricane Katrina, increasing uncertainty over energy security and causing significant volatility in food prices.  This can increase the risk of civil unrest and political instability.
“No sector is excluded from shocks such as flood events, energy blackouts or breadbasket failures, and in an extremely globalised world, single events may trigger cascading effects.
“Meeting these global challenges surrounding food, energy and water therefore requires new ways of thinking and implementing solutions.”