Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Food, water and energy security

By Leung Man-to 梁文韜

As the global population continues to increase and the demand for resources continues to rise, competition for resources between nation states is quickly becoming the determining factor for a nation’s survival.

Over the past two decades, questions of national security have expanded from purely military to encompass areas such as food and energy security.

In this context, food security does not mean food safety; likewise water resource security does not refer to clean drinking water, and when one talks of energy safety, this does not mean nuclear energy. Instead, the issue of security in these areas refers to security of supply.

Nation states can no longer afford to limit their strategic security considerations to purely military concerns as they have done in the past — focusing on sophisticated military hardware or building up well-trained and loyal military forces.

Instead, governments must now also consider how to guarantee the continued and stable supply of food, water and energy for their citizens.

For a long time, Taiwanese politicians of all stripes have talked of “supercharging the economy.” Yet rather than underpinning this policy with a food, water or energy security strategy, they have blindly pursued the development of a so-called high-tech economy and promoted land development.

During the development of Taiwan’s four main high-tech manufacturing industries — the DRAM, flat panel, LED and solar power industries — food, energy and water security were often neglected or even sacrificed.

Time marches on and now these high-tech industries have now become capital-intensive manufacturing operations that, in today’s world, are no longer considered to be “high-tech.”

As Taiwan ponders how it can transform its tech sector to be ready for the future, a good starting point would be to stop equating “supercharging the economy” with prioritizing the four big high-tech industries. Instead, food, water, energy and other security issues should be at the forefront of considerations.

In recent years the governments of many Western countries have prioritized policy considerations around these security issues, which no doubt contributed to the dramatic fluctuations in the prices of food, oil and other raw materials witnessed in 2007 and 2008.

Although nearly 10 years have passed since then, Taiwanese policymakers have not forgotten that CPC Corp, Taiwan was forced to cooperate with the then-government’s long-term policy of energy price freezes and suffered losses approaching NT$50 billion (US$1.7 billion). Additionally, at the time officials were forced to exhaust a great deal of time and energy to stabilize the nation’s food supply.

However, when focusing on the economic cycle and other human-caused factors, it can be all too easy to overlook natural factors that might affect resource security.

Last year, NASA said that “coronal holes” — dark, cooler regions on the sun’s surface — are appearing with increasing frequency, which indicates reduced energy and gas levels.

Indian and Russian scientists who specialize in the study of sunspots are becoming increasingly concerned that the sun may be entering a “hibernation period,” which might mean that the Earth will enter a mini ice age as soon as the end of 2019.

It is not difficult to imagine that if we were to enter a mini ice age, food and oil needs would increase dramatically.

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