Energy, Water and Climate

CNA Energy, Water and Climate (EWC) focuses on integrated analysis of energy, water, and climate linkages. Understanding the implications of these linkages supports the development of sound policies and programs to improve energy, water, and food security, foster efficiency, reduce costs, and improve environmental performance.

With demand for energy, water, and food growing around the world, there are many opportunities for the needs in one area to produce unintended consequences in another, impacting broader economic, environmental, and security outcomes. We specialize in the development and application of tools and methods to explore interactions across sectors, implement effective programs, and produce objective analysis.

Our recent work has explored:

  • the implications of energy policy on water use in the electric power sector;
  • high priority research topics in the energy, water, land, and climate nexus;
  • the environmental impacts of fracking;
  • climate change, water security, and the potential for conflict; and
  • global food security.

Contact: Lars Hanson, / 703-824-2389

Selected Publications and Articles

Author: Lars Hanson and Steven Habicht, PhD

This study investigates the combined, or cumulative land cover disturbance impacts of proposed natural gas (or other liquid fuel) transmission pipelines within the Delaware River Basin. The study uses geospatial analysis with geographic information systems to investigate land cover changes within the pipelines’ permanent and construction rights-of-way. The combined land disturbance of the proposed pipelines is analyzed on the county and watershed level, with special attention to impacts on forested land and wetlands.

Author: Paul Faeth

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new rule under the Clean Air Act—the Clean Power Plan (CPP)—to control carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing stationary electric power plants. In order to better understand the potential impacts of the rule for water consumption and withdrawals in Texas, a state that is experiencing on-going drought, we apply a power generation policy model to evaluate water use along with other economic and environmental indicators. We explore two scenarios: a baseline scenario and the implementation of the CPP. We find that the state will save water under the CPP and be able to meet the final and interim targets with modest incremental effort.

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Authors: Paul Faeth and Lars Hanson

In an area with as many connections as the energy, water, land, and climate nexus, it can be a challenge to identify the highest priority research opportunities. In collaboration with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), we undertook a process to isolate and rank a wide variety of potential research topics. Using several forms of Delphic processes, we engaged experts working on related topics to work with us to develop a short list of 15 priority research topics. We briefly describe the process we used, the challenges with developing topics that encompass all of the elements of the energy-water-land-climate (EWLC) nexus, and present the final list, which is intended to be a discussion starter rather than a definitive list. We found that it is relatively easy to identify research topics that touch one or two elements of the nexus, but difficult to identify ones that truly cover the nexus. Priorities identified by our participants in the process include improving policy and planning, understanding human behavior, enhancing data and modeling, managing risk, and understanding regional differences.

Authors: Steven Habicht, Ph.D., Lars Hanson, and Paul Faeth

This study aims to model the landscape of the Marcellus Shale region to predict how it may change in the future in response to the expansion of natural gas extraction, and, in particular, what impact this may have on the Delaware River Basin (DRB). Our approach combined geospatial analysis and statistical modeling to create a probability surface that predicts the most favorable locations for the placement of future wells based on the location of existing wells. Using the probability surface and an estimate of the number of wells that would be needed to fully exploit the shale resource, we estimated the future landscape of development in the Interior Marcellus Shale and DRB. Using affected subwatersheds and counties as study areas, we then investigated potential impacts associated with land cover, water and wastewater management, water quality due to changes in land cover, air emissions, and health risk factors. The results are intended to help decision-makers and the public understand the scale of the potential impacts.

Authors: Paul Faeth, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Zoë Thorkildsen, Ajith Rao, David Purcell, Jay Eidsness, Katie Johnson, Brian Thompson, Sara Imperiale, and Alex Gilbert

This report describes the application of a new mixed-integer linear programming model of the power sector that accounts for water used for thermal cooling. The model is used to explore a series of scenarios for each of four case studies—the North Grid of China, India, France, and the state of Texas in the United States. For each case study we developed a baseline projection, then modeled a number of scenarios, including limits on water availability, reduced power demand from end-use. energy efficiency, expansion of renewable energy, and carbon caps. We provide model output, including water withdrawals and consumption; power generation fuel mix; carbon dioxide emissions; and total system, fixed, and variable costs. Documentation of the model is provided in an appendix. We developed a set of recommended strategies from this analysis, which are presented in detail in a companion report, Capturing Synergies Between Water Conservation and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Power Sector.

Authors: Paul Faeth and Benjamin K. Sovacool

In order to gain a more thorough understanding of potential conflicts and synergies between power generation and water use, we developed a mixed-integer linear programming model of the power sector that captures the key relationships with water. We used the model to develop a series of scenarios for each of four case studies—the North Grid of China, India, France, and the state of Texas in the United States. We found that cost-effective options exist that can cut water use, reduce risks to the power sector, and also reduce emissions of conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases from electricity generation. This report focuses on strategies we recommend to capture those synergies.

Environment Magazine
Author: Paul Faeth

U.S. national security interests can cover a variety of issues, but one that has been enduring over the last 40 years has been energy security, which means that there are sufficient supplies of energy at prices that do not disrupt ordinary economic and social activity. The nature of the energy security challenge has morphed over those decades to include carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and, more recently, the security of electricity supplies.

Now, as the nature of interdependencies between energy and water is becoming clearer, so too the connections between water and national security are also becoming clearer and adding new challenges. Leading options to respond to the need to increase energy security by increasing the domestic production of oil and oil substitutes and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) may be limited because of water quantity or quality constraints. And in the electric power sector, expansion of conventional supplies to meet demand may be constrained because in significant parts of the country, water supplies are expected to be insufficient.

There are energy options though that can reduce energy dependence, cut emissions, and conserve water. This article explores these issues.

Authors: Paul Faeth and Erika Weinthal

The number of people with improved access to safe drinking water is growing. According to UNICEF, since 1990, an additional 1.8 billion people are using an improved source of drinking water. Yet many people are living with water scarcity, particularly in Africa. The solutions highlighted here are just a few of the possible responses. Safe drinking water and sanitation in schools may serve as a way to keep girls in school, increasing their economic opportunities, and eventually, the health of their own children.  Innovative ways to finance water entrepreneurs could open up an avenue for new investments and improve sustainability. Strengthening regional institutions, promoting scientific dialogue, and harnessing social capital can help facilitate cooperation and reconciliation. Appropriate investments is water use, sustainable development, and to promoting security in a period of climate change.

Authors: Catherine M. Trentacoste, E.D. McGrady, Shawna Cuan, and Nilanthi Samaranayake

CNA, sponsored by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, executed two instances of a political decision-making game designed to explore information sharing and cooperation over water on the Indian subcontinent. The game explored how Bangladesh, China, India, and Pakistan manage water resources between the Brahmaputra, Indus, and Ganges rivers. The first instance of the game took place in January 2014 in the Washington, DC area, and was played primarily by American subject matter experts. The second instance of the game was held in June 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was played by retired senior officials with policy and military backgrounds, and water experts from all four South Asian countries. This document summarizes the second (regional) instance of the game, identifies strategic insights from the regional instance, and compares the two instances deriving further insights based on that comparison.

Authors: E.D. McGrady and Catherine M. Trentacoste

In 2013 the Skoll Global Threats Fund asked CNA to design and develop a game exploring information-sharing, conflict, and cooperation on the Indian subcontinent. The goal of the game was twofold: to understand information-sharing, its impediments and effects on water sharing and decision-making, as well as understand how gaming could be a tool for social change. The game was executed in two instances, one in the Washington, DC area with U.S. subject matter experts, and the other in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with senior leaders from each of the countries involved. This gives us a unique opportunity to explore how games compare across cultures, as well as how well this game allowed senior leaders to address controversial issues. We find that the cross-cultural effects occurred mostly in how particular countries implemented their policies, but that strategic issues and attitudes remained similar across the two instances of the game. From player feedback as well as game observations, we conclude that games with senior officials from countries who have a history of tension between them are possible, and may provide a more engaging way for them to discuss controversial issues than a traditional meeting format.

Authors: Catherine M. Schkoda, Shawna G. Cuan, and E.D. McGrady

In March 2015, in Delhi, India, CNA held a game and scenario-planning session in support of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During the event, we explored the future effects of climate change as they relate to security around the world. Participants included renowned scientists, security experts, diplomats, and retired military personnel from Asia, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Based on game play and discussions, we identified four major findings: (1) climate change may increase nationalism and policies of internalization in developed countries; (2) large-scale climate-induced migration may impact a country’s international policies, economic situation, and defining cultural attributes, changing the way they participate in global commons; (3) competition for limited resources may increase as a source of friction and shape policies and international relations; and (4) climate change technologies are not viewed in the same way by all countries, and there is potential for an emerging disparity between regions over the consensus and control of these technologies. This document gives an overview of the event and discusses why we identified each of these factors as a security risk that could result from climate change.

Authors: Mary "Kate" Fisher, Ph.D. and Yee San Su, Ph.D.

The Center for American Progress, World Wildlife Fund, Cargill, Mars, and CNA developed and executed a policy decision-making game designed to explore issues arising from, and possible responses to, global food system disruptions. The game took place in November 2015 in Washington, D.C., and included senior officials and subject matter experts on teams representing Brazil, Continental Africa, China, the European Union (EU), India, the United States, multilateral institutions, and business and investors. During four rounds of game play spanning the decade 2020 to 2030, players confronted food system pressure at the intersection of population growth, urbanization, severe weather, and social unrest. In response, players crafted policies, made decisions, and took actions that dynamically influenced the state of the world as the game advanced. As the chain reaction of impacts tied to their choices became apparent, players experienced first-hand how their decisions and actions influenced global food security. At the conclusion of the game, players highlighted significant lessons learned and expressed increased preparedness to collaboratively address food security.