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Singh: Water plays key role in climate change, energy consumption

FEBRUARY 28, 2012
by Daniel Smith ’14, Contributing Writer

When Kartiyeka Singh graduated from Furman in 2007, he decided to take a few years off before graduate school. During this time, he traveled the world as a climate change ambassador, researcher, and leader of a non-profit oriented around water issues.

All of these experiences led him to believe that water should be given the same value as energy in the climate change debate.

In his discussion last Thursday, titled “Water and energy in a climate constrained world,” Singh moved quickly to dispel any theories opposing the existence of climate change, citing scientific consensus backed by evidence. According to Singh’s findings, the first 10 years of the 21st century have been the hottest in recorded history, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are the highest in 800,000 years, and rising temperatures have resulted in a near permanent El Nino effect.

With these changes as a backdrop, he discussed various instances of water scarcity, most of which occur in the developing world. As of today, 1.5 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water. Even worse, many of those who do have safe access overuse it at a rapid rate. For example, the average person in the United States consumes 500 liters a day, while over 1 billion people use about six liters. The recommended use is 50 liters.

For Singh, the solution to this overuse and uneven distribution lies in recognizing water’s relationship with energy, and the multiple perspectives we should adopt in understanding its various uses. He pointed to water’s role in mining and refining energy minerals, hydropower generation, coal and gas liquefaction, and the process of growing and producing biofuels as just a few examples of how vital water is in creating sources of energy.

Singh said water is critical in the operation of energy systems. With this in mind, any talk of a global energy crisis must immediately include water disputes as well. Water is not being granted the importance Singh feels it deserves.

“Water is not as critical of an issue in the climate change debate right now, but it needs to be. Energy is the main focus because it’s global.”

However, he is hopeful that an increased focus on water will be helpful in pushing the climate change debate toward the top of global concerns: “Hopefully the debate on water and energy can put things into perspective.”

The lecture was the first in a series of water-focused events sponsored by the Global Issues Forum. The group has developed a series of lectures, discussions and campus displays to highlight water usage and sustainability.

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