More than 9 billion people are expected to live on Earth by 2050, up from 7 billion today. Asia's fast-growing cities will absorb much of this growth, with three in four people living in urban centres. As living standards improve, many will move out of poverty and gain access to energy, a paradox emerges: the world's growing prosperity may undermine the benefits that this prosperity brings. Meeting the needs of a growing population and rising middle class will put stress on the world's energy, water and food supplies.
These vital resources are also tightly linked: for example rising energy consumption adds strain on the world's water stocks and vice versa. Energy providers, for instance, are among the largest industrial consumers of freshwater - water is needed for drilling, flooding wells, refining crude and producing biofuels and also power generation and transportation. At the same time, energy is required for the supply purification, distribution and treatment of water and wastewater. Chemical engineers have a crucial role to play in shaping the understanding of the connections between energy, water, food and climate systems - and devising some of the practical solutions to begin to address such dilemmas and stresses.