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Footprints of water and energy inputs in food production - Global perspectives


  • Khan, Shahbaz
  • Hanjra, Munir A.


During the second half of the 20th century the global food production more than doubled and thus responded to the doubling of world population. But the gains in food production came at a cost, leaving a significant environmental footprint on the ecosystem. Global cropland, plantations and pastures expanded, with large increases in fossil energy, water, and fertilizer inputs, imprinting considerable footprint on the environment. Information from pre eminent publications such as Nature, Science, PNAS and scholarly journals is synthesized to assess the water and energy footprints of global food production. The data show that the footprints are significant, both locally, national and globally and have consequences for global food security and ecosystem health and productivity. The literature nearly agrees that global food production system generates considerable environmental footprints and the situation would likely get worrisome, as global population grows by 50% by 2050. Investments are needed today to buffer the negative impacts of food production on the environment. Investments to boost water productivity and improve energy use efficiency in crop production are two pathways to reduce the environmental footprint.

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  • Khan, Shahbaz & Hanjra, Munir A., 2009. "Footprints of water and energy inputs in food production - Global perspectives," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 130-140, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:34:y:2009:i:2:p:130-140

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    1. Dong, Gang & Mao, Xianqiang & Zhou, Ji & Zeng, An, 2013. "Carbon footprint accounting and dynamics and the driving forces of agricultural production in Zhejiang Province, China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 38-47.
    2. Patrizia Ghisellini & Marco Setti & Sergio Ulgiati, 2016. "Energy and land use in worldwide agriculture: an application of life cycle energy and cluster analysis," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 799-837, June.
    3. Moon, Wanki, 2011. "Is agriculture compatible with free trade?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 13-24.
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    5. Valeria De Laurentiis & Dexter V.L. Hunt & Christopher D.F. Rogers, 2016. "Overcoming Food Security Challenges within an Energy/Water/Food Nexus (EWFN) Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(1), pages 1-23, January.
    6. World Bank [WB], 2016. "High and Dry : Climate Change, Water, and the Economy," Working Papers id:10736, eSocialSciences.
    7. Mirade, Pierre-Sylvain & Perret, Bruno & Guillemin, Hervé & Picque, Daniel & Desserre, Béatrice & Montel, Marie-Christine & Corrieu, Georges, 2012. "Quantifying energy savings during cheese ripening after implementation of sequential air ventilation in an industrial cheesemaking plant," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 248-258.
    8. Sevigne, Eva & Gasol, Carles M. & Brun, Filippo & Rovira, Laura & Pagés, Josep Maria & Camps, Francesc & Rieradevall, Joan & Gabarrell, Xavier, 2011. "Water and energy consumption of Populus spp. bioenergy systems: A case study in Southern Europe," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 1133-1140, February.
    9. Jinglu Wu & Haiao Zeng & Hong Yu & Long Ma & Longsheng Xu & Boqiang Qin, 2012. "Water and Sediment Quality in Lakes along the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Yangtze River, China," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 26(12), pages 3601-3618, September.
    10. repec:eee:rensus:v:75:y:2017:i:c:p:393-401 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Aavudai Anandhi & Jean L. Steiner & Nathaniel Bailey, 2016. "A system’s approach to assess the exposure of agricultural production to climate change and variability," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 136(3), pages 647-659, June.
    12. Jackson, T.M. & Hanjra, Munir A. & Khan, S. & Hafeez, M.M., 2011. "Building a climate resilient farm: A risk based approach for understanding water, energy and emissions in irrigated agriculture," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(9), pages 729-745.
    13. Roberto Roson & Martina Sartori, 2013. "Trade-offs in water policy: System-wide implications of changing water availability and agricultural productivity in the Mediterranean economies by 2050," Working Papers 2013:21, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    14. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:1:p:95:d:62554 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Matteo Vittuari & Fabio De Menna & Marco Pagani, 2016. "The Hidden Burden of Food Waste: The Double Energy Waste in Italy," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(8), pages 1-24, August.
    16. Ozturk, Ilhan, 2015. "Sustainability in the food-energy-water nexus: Evidence from BRICS (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa) countries," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 93(P1), pages 999-1010.
    17. Sharifi, Ayyoob & Yamagata, Yoshiki, 2016. "Principles and criteria for assessing urban energy resilience: A literature review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 1654-1677.
    18. Khan, S. & Khan, M.A. & Hanjra, M.A. & Mu, J., 2009. "Pathways to reduce the environmental footprints of water and energy inputs in food production," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 141-149, April.
    19. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, 2016. "Development and application of integrative modeling tools in support of food-energy-water nexus planning—a research agenda," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 6(1), pages 3-10, March.
    20. Bazilian, Morgan & Rogner, Holger & Howells, Mark & Hermann, Sebastian & Arent, Douglas & Gielen, Dolf & Steduto, Pasquale & Mueller, Alexander & Komor, Paul & Tol, Richard S.J. & Yumkella, Kandeh K., 2011. "Considering the energy, water and food nexus: Towards an integrated modelling approach," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(12), pages 7896-7906.
    21. Guta, Dawit & Jara, Jose & Adhikari, Narayan & Qiu, Chen & Gaur, Varun & Mirzabaev, Alisher, 2015. "Decentralized energy in Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus in Developing Countries: Case Studies on Successes and Failures," Discussion Papers 207713, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    22. Hanjra, Munir A. & Qureshi, M. Ejaz, 2010. "Global water crisis and future food security in an era of climate change," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 365-377, October.


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