6 item(s) found.

External limits at the planetary level [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

External limits at the planetary level [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB

Aim of the case study

This case study has two goals. In Part 1 it discusses how to use MuSIASEM to generate scenarios to assess how much EU agricultural practices could be scaled to the world level. In Part 2 it provides “place-holder-data” having the goal of illustrating the proposed analysis.

 

Innovative results

In Part 1 this pilot case study identifies and illustrates the factors considered in the MuSIASEM analysis of the agricultural sector to generate scenarios of global food security. The approach requires considering simultaneously:

  1. the factors that determine the requirement of food (population structure, population size and dietary preferences).
  2. the external factors/constraints determining the feasibility of the supply of food in different social-ecological systems – i.e. natural resources (arable land, water, soil, biodiversity), geography, climate, etc..
  3. the internal factors/constraints determining both the desirability and viability of the supply of food in the metabolic pattern of social-ecological systems – i.e. technological, social, economic, cultural and institutional constraints on the food system.

 

In Part 2 this pilot case study provides “place-holder-data” having the goal of illustrating the proposed analysis. It should be noted that these data are not MUSIASEM estimates (they have not been estimated using processors reflecting benchmarks scaled across different hierarchical levels). They are just coarse guesstimates that may be proven wrong when the proper estimation will be done using the proposed approach.

  1. If the world population increases to 9.5 billion as forecasted, if the world population adopts the current EU diet (implying a requirement of 0.3 ha of cropland per capita), food production would require approximately twice the current world cropland in production;
  2. The amount of hours of agricultural work embodied in the food imported by EU is around 80 hours per capita per year. This quantity doubles the hours of agricultural work used in domestic production within the EU – around 40 hours per capita per year;
  3. Economic investment in agricultural production is about 450 US$/ha in the EU. This value is three time larger than the average world expenditure (less than 150 US$/ha). This implies that a quick technical capitalization of the agricultural sector of developing countries (required to express the type of metabolic pattern expected in existing scenarios – e.g. a dramatic increase of urban population) is very unlikely.

 

Policy relevant insights

  • The EU intensive agricultural system is economically viable because of subsidies and because of the reliance on imports of agricultural commodities based on the availability of cheap labour;
  • The EU agricultural sector has become more and more an importer of agricultural commodities with the goal of transforming or processing them (e.g. imported animal feed are transformed in animal products), leading to a switch from the production of crops to the production of animal products. EU agriculture should be considered more and more a secondary sector of the economy rather than a primary one;
  • The factors that may lead to a bottleneck in scaling up the agricultural model of the EU to the rest of the world are the requirement of labour and the very high level of investments required by agricultural production;

 

Nexus insights

  • Food production in EU is constrained by the availability of abundant water, energy, land, technology and monetary flows (investments, subsidies);
  • The future of agriculture and the possibility to feed the planet in the future will be limited by the availability of water-land-energy and investment requirements;
  • When generating scenarios that explore the viability and feasibility of scaling-up or scaling-down, or changing agricultural production patterns, the implications of the nexus must be taken into account.

 

Future steps

The analysis described in this pilot case study will be carried out using the proposed MUSIASEM tools to study the viability and feasibility of different scenarios for agricultural production at the world level.

Resources

Teams Involved

The metabolic pattern of Spain [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

The metabolic pattern of Spain [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB

Aim of the case study

This case study explains how to integrate the information referring to different dimensions of analysis (food, water, energy, human activity and power capacity) at the level of a whole country: Spain. It illustrates: (i) definitions and calculations of the main elements of the system; and (ii) the overall results.

 

Innovative results

The document shows how to apply the MuSIASEM framework to characterise the metabolic pattern of a country. That is, how to calculate the data for the main socio-economic sectors of society (households, service and government, agriculture and forestry, energy and mining, manufacturing and construction), adopting a metabolic perspective:

  • The biophysical indicator of living standards related to the nexus: Bio-Economic Pressure (BEP), the percentage of flows and funds devoted to consumption activities;
  • A biophysical indicator of nexus security: Strength of the Exosomatic Hypercycle (SEH), the percentage of flows and funds used in production activities (production is defined from a strictly biophysical point of view);
  • The profile of distribution of the fund human activity most unevenly distributed between BEP (10%) and SEH (90%), leaving a mere 2% of human activity to operate the primary and secondary economic sectors;
  • The fraction of flows and funds available to consumption activities, which depends on the characteristics of the productive activities;
  • The requirement of the productive sectors associated with a desirable (adaptive, well maintained and well reproduced) level of consumption. This implies that the relation between BEP and SEH is impredicative.

 

Policy relevant insights

Modern societies operate with a mismatch between the characteristics of BEP and the characteristics of SEH, thanks to imports: externalisation diminishes nexus security

When the Bio-Economic Pressure becomes too high, importing flows from other countries becomes a very effective way, and an obliged solution, to maintain the desired level of consumption.

A low allocation of flows and funds in the primary and secondary sectors can be associated with the ability to guarantee high material living standards in the household sector, and of enjoying a large overhead of services from SG.

 

Nexus insights

The same framework of accounting is used for water, energy, food (suing processors defined in the same way across levels). This makes it possible to analyse the NEXUS both at the national level, and at the level of individual economic sectors.

 

Future steps

All countries of the EU will be analysed in this way to compare benchmarks across countries looking for patterns (clusters) in the allocation of resources in different economic sectors.

Resources

Teams Involved

The electric grid of Catalonia [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

The electric grid of Catalonia [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB

Aim of the case study

This case study shows how structural and functional elements of the energy system can be aggregated and scaled to move from a description of power plants to a description of the electricity sector, using the tool of processor.

 

Innovative results

The pilot study analysing the electriciy sector of Catalonia shows how the metabolism of a sector can be described by building its structural and functional processors.

Structural processors refer to technologies: in this case, a different processor is built for each type of power plant, such as nuclear, solar PV or hydropower. Within each processor, the pattern of flows (water, electricity, etc.) and funds (land use, human activity, etc.) needed to carry out the process of electricity generation is represented.

Then, rather than just maintaining a structural (technological) description of the system, the structural processors are grouped depending on the function played by the electricity they produce. Functionality here is an emergent property of the complex system: it can partially be traced back to structural characteristics (e.g. nuclear plants are not flexible therefore they produce baseload power) but also depends on the context: hydro-power, for example, can produce both baseload and both peak electricity depending on weather patterns, national policies etc.

In this case, three types of electricity are identified: baseload, peak and intermittent. The structural processors producing the same type of electricity are grouped into three functional processors, which are then aggregated towards a final description of the electricity sectors.

This allows us to: (i) see what flows and funds are consumed and emitted by the electricity sector; (ii) see how its different functional and structural components contribute to the profile of flows and funds.

 

Policy relevant insights

The distinction of different types of electricity based on their functionality is well known in engineering but less discussed in policy processes. By providing a clear and simple link between structural and functional elements, the tools provided by this pilot study can be implemented to discuss pressing energy issues such as renewable energy transitions, efficiency and technological changes, without requiring sophisticated modelling techniques.

 

Nexus insights

The electricity processors represent a pattern of water, energy, land and more, linking them with a type of electricity produced. This way, we can see how different types of power plants, and the different types of electricity generated, affect and are affected by the other nexus elements in the system.

 

Future steps

The proposed electricity grammar is being expanded to the whole energy sector of eight countries in the EU, to contrast and compare their energy metabolism in relation to other nexus elements, and to provide valuable insights into possible constraints posed on future policies. 

Resources

Teams Involved

Animal production system in Scotland [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

Animal production system in Scotland [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB & HUTTON

Aim of the case study

The aim of this pilot study is to illustrate a procedure for integrated multi-level assessment of the animal production system of Scotland capable of: (i) checking the level of openness of the system (dependence on imports) when used in diagnostic mode, and (ii) being used as decision support when used in simulation mode.

 

Innovative results

This case shows that MuSIASEM can be used to coherently integrate differ- ent types of policy relevant information (i.e. nutritional, social, environmental and economic aspects) by establishing a relational analysis over the structural and functional components of an animal production system. When used in this way, MuSIASEM establishes a relation between the consumption of food of animal origin and the biophysical resources (water, energy, soil, human labour) required to produce them.

The difference between what is required because of the domestic consumption and what is used in the domestic production can be used to estimate the level of openness of the system.

When used in diagnostic mode, with processors characterizing the expected profiles of inputs and outputs associated with the different steps of production, MuSIASEM quantifies the virtual quantities of production factors (land, water, labor, energy, fertilizer) embodied in imported (or exported) animal products.

When used in simulation mode, it uses relational analysis (the scaling of the characteristics of structural and functional processors across the different components of the animal production system) to anticipate the changes in the characteristics of the whole determined by changes in the characteristics of lower level components.

The absolute transparency of the system of accounting makes it possible to involve third parties (experts from different disciplines and stakeholders) in a discussion over the quality of the quantitative analysis. This check of the validity of the assumptions used when building the analysis boosts the credibility of the results. 

Possible simulations can include changes in the factors determining:

  • the required supply – e.g. population size, mix of animal products in the diet, level of export,
  • the actual supply – e.g. characteristics of the structural elements expressing the different functions required by the production systems,
  • the terms of trade – e.g. changing import/export of feed and other inputs or the import/export of animal products.

 

Policy relevant insights

MuSIASEM, when implemented with a user-friendly software, can be used to develop participatory tools. The transparency of the system of accounting ensures that this participatory tool is very effective for the involvement of social actors in an informed deliberation over policies to be adopted (Desirability check).

The proposed methodoloy improves the understanding of biophysical resources needed for different scenarios: feasibility is the capacity of the environment to provide the required resources and to assimilate the resulting waste. Viability is the ability of Scottish society to provide the required technological tools and human resources to the animal production system in an economically acceptable way.

MuSIASEM identifies the constituent components (the functional elements needed to have an operational animal production system) and characterizes them using processors (a profile of expected inputs and outputs). Therefore, by adopting this method one can assess and compare various production systems in relation to their specific requirements of biophysical resources (relevant for the protection of the environment) and their costs and benefits for the socioeconomic system.

Thus, one can assess the level of openness of the animal production system identifying the factors determining the vulnerability of the system to internal and external perturbations.

Resources

Teams Involved

Vegetable production in Almeria [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

Vegetable production in Almeria [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB

Aim of the case study

The aim of this pilot study is to define a procedure for integrated and multi-level accounting of the nexus (water, energy, food and land use) in relation to vegetable production at the regional scale. It illustrates how to integrate different types of quantitative information across scales and dimensions of analysis.

 

Innovative results

A diagnostic tool for integrated and multi-level accounting of the WEF-Nexus of vegetable production, with particular emphasis on the connection between agricultural and water systems, is proposed.

Vegetable production is characterized at four analytical levels: crop production processes, farming systems, irrigation areas and the whole Almeria province. These levels are connected through scaling relations.

Water supply is characterized at three analytical levels: water bodies, water sources and end users. These levels are connected through flow relations. Irrigation areas are the analytical level that enables the connection between the two systems: they are water end-users and vegetable producers at the same time. 

Relations between water and food systems are bidirectional: water withdrawal and reception of pollution.

 

Policy relevant insights

The Water Framework Directive 2000/60 requires the achievement of good status of all European water bodies. However, how to handle the nexus with agriculture is still a major challenge.

This case study is relevant because it shows that it is posible to integrate water and food policies in Europe across different levels of analysis. This integration makes it possible to deal with three persistent nexus problems: over-abstraction, nutrients and pesticides pollution.

The proposed accounting framework is capable of quantifying the socio-economic and ecological trade-offs associated with changes in food production and water supply patterns. 

 

Nexus insights

The three nexus dimensions are integrated in a network of nexus components. Water and food compartments in the network are characterized through processors that include a set of relevant inputs and outputs.

When water is a limiting factor for vegetable production, the introduction of desalination and reclamation adds a new dimension to the nexus.

Then we can move from water as a limiting factor to energy as a limiting factor. By using this analysis one can identify the factors determining the viability of alternative water sources in relation to the type of farming systems. More intensive patterns are more likely to be viable with these alternative water sources.

 

Future steps

To analyse different narratives about the nexus between water and agriculture in the region.

To run a series of checks on the validity of narratives about water and agriculture including all relevant social-ecological dimensions. In particular, we will simulate in different scenarios the option space for reducing the pressure over water bodies.

To open a dialogue with local stakeholders about the desirability, viability and feasibility of different technological and policy innovations that can be adopted to meet the Water Framework Directive goals.

Resources

Teams Involved

Desalination for agriculture using wind energy in Gran Canaria [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

Desalination for agriculture using wind energy in Gran Canaria [Illustrations of MuSIASEM]

UAB & ITC

Aim of the case study

The aim of this pilot study is to define a procedure for integrated and multi-level accounting of the nexus (water, energy, food and land use) in relation at the use of freshwater from desalination powered by windmills to irrigate crops in a farm in Gran Canaria.

 

Innovative results

This case illustrates how to implement a Water-Energy-Food (WEF) NEXUS assessment using the MuSIASEM 2.0 approach: It shows the usefulness of the tool with some clear evidences as example of the type of outputs obtained. It explains in details the various steps required for quantifying the production of energy, water and food and the associated requirements and resources. It explains how to make a system representation in order to arrange the elements required to represent the various relations of exchange within the WEF system and between the WEF system and outer systems (purchased water, electricity or crops sold to the market). This figure (next page) makes it possible to distinguish between functional and structural elements useful to scale up the information, or to make extrapolations of the analysis to other territories.

The innovative analysis based on the concept of “processor” – a data array describing the profile of expected inputs and outputs, that can be scaled across functional and structural elements - makes it possible to integrate:

  • technical analysis (technical coefficients);
  • economic analysis (costs and revenues in monetary terms);
  • biophysical analysis of the external constraints (requirement of inputs on the supply side and sink capacity).

 

Policy relevant insights

Even though the contribution of alternative energy to generate an alternative fresh water source improves the productivity of the agricultural system (an important aspect in the Canary Archipelagous) the results of the analysis carried out in this pilot case flags two relevant aspects to consider, when assessing this technology:

  1. desalination using wind energy is economically viable in this case only because of the existence of high agricultural subsidies making it possible to cover the high costs of this type of freshwater source. So the viability of this system elsewhere depends on the level of water scarcity and the possibility of providing subsidies to agricultural production.
  2. the considered WEF system is not fully self-sufficient, it still relies on water and electricity from external suppliers.

 

Future steps

In the rest of the project we will develop more complex analysis and carry out participatory processes to test the usefulness of this approach in real situations.

 

Press releases:

EnergyHub.es (20 Sep 2019); El Diario Agricola (canariasahora/agricola) (20 Sep 2019); La Voz de la Palma (20 Sep 2019); El Tambor (20 Sep 2019); Noticias Canarias(20 Sep 2019); El Digital de Canarias (21 Sep 2019); Noticias Islas Canarias (20 Sep 2019), ITC (20 Sep 2019).

Resources

Teams Involved