Public Lecture: Geology and the food-water-energy nexus in developing countries
Prof Mike Stephenson, Director of Science and Technology, British Geological Survey
In this lecture, Prof. Mike Stephenson, Director of Science & Technology at the British Geological Survey, will discuss how population growth, urbanisation and climate change combine to create challenges for the food-water-energy nexus in the developing world. This challenge has a geological aspect in that solutions often involve the use and management of subsurface resources. In East Africa, for example, the people of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique are already affected by poverty and food insecurity worsened by erratic rainfall and crop yields. About 90% of subsistence food production in the region comes from rain fed agriculture, and the vulnerability of soil increases with increasing climate variability and long-term climate change. The total population of the region was 286 million in 2012, and will be 800 million by 2060 and 1150 million by 2090, so energy demand will rise enormously.
Prof. Stephenson will consider some geological aspects of the food-water-energy nexus in the developing world, paying particular attention to East Africa. Research on topics such as soil sustainability under climate change, identifying selenium soil deficiency risks and quantitative mapping of groundwater resources all play a part. Perhaps most interesting is the energy dilemma in Africa. The latest forecasts show that demand for fossil fuels will grow in Africa and the developing world. Will the developing world undergo a ‘fossil revolution’ like the developed world’s industrial revolution, or will it leap-frog fossil fuels to renewables, like it did landline telephones? Whatever happens, the way developing countries generate their future energy will have an influence on global attempts to keep emissions under a ‘two-degree limit’.
Mike Stephenson is Director of Science and Technology at the British Geological Survey (BGS). He has done research in the Middle East and Asia, including highlights in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Mike also runs the Science Programme at BGS, the UK's national geoscience and data centre, in charge of 520 scientists and technologists. He has professorships at Nottingham and Leicester Universities. His recently published book ‘Shale gas and fracking: the science behind the controversy’ won an ‘honourable mention’ at the Association of American Publishers PROSE awards in Washington DC. Mike Stephenson regularly represents UK science interests in energy, as well as providing extensive advice to the UK Government. For example in October 2013 he was shale gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS) advisor to Sir Mark Walport, Chief UK Government Scientific Advisor, on a fact-finding mission to Texas and Alberta.