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A country can print money, but it cannot print water (and it can import soybeans, “virtual water”)

While the World expects to the see the COP27 developments, here are more climate related news from our Planet A, the Earth that went from a 2 billion population in 1950 to 8 billion this week.

A report from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy recently analysed China’s record-breaking drought this 2022 summer, and the potencial consequences for global food security, energy markets and supply chains. Here are some highlights:

  • Water. China’s economy consumes 14 million barrels of crude oil per day, while its daily average water consumption is 700 times larger, 10 billion barrels. NASA satellites that measure gravitational anomalies now suggest overdrawn aquifers in parts of the country. A water Geography Problem

  • Food. As parts of the country suffered a 33% crop loss due to drought, China would potentially need to import approximately 20% of “tradable” corn production worldwide and more than 13% of global tradable wheat.

  • Electricity. Despite significant investment in renewable energy, approximately 60% of the electricity is generated from coal and nearly 20% from hydroelectric sources. Besides, coal-fired power plants require substantial amounts of water for cooling.

  • Coal. The bulk of the coal plants are in regions considered water-stressed. And overlaps with key agricultural regions.

  • Global Supply Chain. China is, by a significant margin, the world’s largest producer of aluminum, ferro-silicon, lead, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and most rare earths and many other specialty metals and materials. And destabilise energy transition efforts globally.

  • No Silver Bullets. A country can print money but it cannot print water.

  • “Virtual Water”. In the form of agricultural imports such as soybeans, offers another option.

  • Dry Wells. A problem “too big to let fail” but also “not too big to fix” ? Impacting agriculture in other large countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. ?

Click on the image below for the full report. And here for our post about Aerial Rivers and their relation with Rainforests, so critical to keep - enough - sweetwater in land. And feed aquifers and groundwater.

As indicated in the report, a given molecule of water can nourish a wheat or rice stalk, turn a hydroelectric turbine, cool a thermal power plant’s condenser, or slake a human being’s thirst. But it cannot do more than one of these simultaneously, meaning that one leg of the nexus generally competes with the others.


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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