Part 2 - Mapping hotspots
Water and food production
Global population is now 7 billion people and will continue to grow in future decades. According to a business-as-usual scenario, global population will grow to circa 9 billion people by 2050. This growth will be particularly strong in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Population growth is projected to increase the use of and pressure on natural resources
Population (in millions) and population growth (%) per country, 2010 - 2050
The rapidly growing population strongly increases the pressure on local natural resources, local environmental conditions, and food availability.
Water stress by 2050
Between now and 2050, global water consumption is expected to increase by 25%, due to the growing number of households, the growth in industrial production, and agricultural expansion and intensification.
Growing water demand and —in some regions— declining precipitation will increase the pressure on the available water resources, resulting in high levels of water stress in many regions. This may limit agricultural production.
Largest part water consumption is irrigation
2010 versus 2050 in km3
Source: Utrecht University, PBL
Agriculture uses the most water, by far, with a water use of more than 80%. In particular, in South and East Asia, agricultural production heavily depends on irrigation.
Climate change, which brings higher average temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, combined with increasing competition for water resources, may result in substantial increases in the number of people living under severe water stress.
Low crop yields require water management
Twenty percent of the global agricultural area is irrigated, which represents 40% of the total in agricultural production. The remaining area (80%) fully depends on precipitation.
Gap in crop yields rainfed agriculture, 2010–2050
Source: Wageningen University & Research
Water shortages cause large yield gaps in many areas around the world. Improved water management may increase crop yields in rainfed agriculture, by 40% to over 60%.
Gap in crop yields irrigated agriculture, 2010–2050
Source: Wageningen University & Research
Improved water management may also increase crop yields in irrigated agriculture.
Reconciling agriculture and nature
In large parts of the world, improved water management, based on currently known techniques for water efficiency and water conservation, could decrease local yield gaps, while compensating for climate change impacts and retaining at least 30% of the water flows for nature.
Improved water management may reconcile ecologically required water flows for ecosystems and water quantities required for crop production.
Change in crop production under improved water management, allowing ecologically required river flows
Source: Jägermeyr et al., 2017
This map shows that in most regions of the world, crop production can be increased under improved water management, allowing ecologically required river flows.
However, in the Himalayan region and areas north of it, this win-win strategy seems not possible and ecological flow requirements will not be met.
Competition with increase in energy crop production
Under the Business-as-usual scenario, global production of energy crops between 2010 and 2050 is projected to increase from 0.1 million tonnes dry matter, per year, to 2 million tonnes, supplying about 9% of the global energy production.
Land use is projected to change. In all regions, more land will be used for growing food and energy crops, at the expense of forest and other nature areas. The production of energy crops could be competing with other types of land use, such as food production and nature.
Energy crops will significantly contribute to agricultural production by 2050
Million tonnes dry matter, per year
The major regions for energy crop production under the Business-as-usual scenario are Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, together encompassing around three quarters of total energy crop production. The competing pressures on land and water are most prominent in these regions.