There’s no pretending that providing secure stores of fresh water, and producing adequate supplies of energy and food is confounding the nations of Earth. In the era of climate change most of the world’s prominent energy and food producing regions are either getting dryer or more hydrologically unstable.
The consequence Is a growing list of global choke points – the economically and ecologically disruptive confrontations over water, energy, and agricultural resources that Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center, our project partner, are describing all over the world.
For five years the two organizations have documented the world’s urgent resource choke points with uncommon depth, skill, and on-the-ground expertise. From Mongolia to China, India to Qatar, Palestine to Peru, and all across the United States and Canada, our Global Choke Point project is helping the world understand the urgency of the contest for water, energy, and food. Just as importantly, our work is identifying opportunities to build international momentum for political and pragmatic solutions.
Never was the influence of our work more apparent than in 2014.
A Climate Breakthrough
In November, the United States and China reached agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and take other measures to limit the stresses of industrialization on the planet’s ecosystems. Two of the six major provisions in the pact — one measure to spend $50 million to better understand the ties between energy production and water supply, and a second to treat and recycle wastewater from storing carbon in deep geological formations — are the direct result of Choke Point: China, one of our Global Choke Point reports.
This is no small accomplishment. The U.S.-China climate agreement was widely regarded during the U.N. climate summit, held in December in Lima, Peru, as the breakthrough political step that could lead to a binding global climate agreement later this year in Paris.
The U.S. – China climate agreement also is a singular success for a distinctive online communications and policy development model that marries frontline data gathering to international networking and dialogue and is making a proven difference in the world.
That five-year-old Global Choke Point model was developed by Circle of Blue, and by Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center, a think tank that fosters international scholarship and dialogue. Essentially, the two organizations wedded their strengths. Circle of Blue counted on Jennifer and her colleagues to provide context, and Jennifer’s wondrous directory of personal contacts in and outside China. Jennifer relied on Circle of Blue to dig out the new facts, interview the key players, travel to the resource choke points, and tell a new story of the confrontation between diminishing freshwater supplies and rising demand for energy and food, China’s two biggest water consumers.
Among our big findings in China: Unless energy production and water consumption trends changed quickly in a drying nation, China would run out of water to meet its energy demands by the end of this decade.
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