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Campus conference will discuss changing issues regarding water, food, energy

With weather on students’s minds in the wake of a recent snow storm, a campus conference this week will shed light on how climate interacts with water, food and energy.

UNC is hosting the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference through Saturday. Researchers and experts from more than 30 universities will come together to discuss the water, food and energy issues that have arisen due to population growth and global climate changes.

The conference began Wednesday and will continue until Saturday. It consists of panels, speakers and presentations.

Jonas Monast, a speaker at the conference and director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University, said most discussions at other environmental conferences focus on only one issue.

“What I think is really exciting about this conference is that the focus is bringing all of these factors together because they are so interrelated,” he said.

Marissa Streyle, networking and partnerships manager at UNC’s Water Institute, said the conference is designed to look at the interconnectivity of water, food, energy and climate issues.

“Our interest is primarily in water and climate issues, but you can’t think about them without considering food and energy issues as well,” she said in an email.

Monast will be speaking on a water, energy and climate panel. He said it is important to think about water availability and its impact on the electric supply.

“When we were in a severe drought a few years ago here in the southeast, we were within a couple of months of some of the nuclear power plants potentially having to shut down because the lakes had gotten so low,” he said.

The first conference on these issues was in 2011 in Germany, said Kyle Villemain, an intern at the conference.

“Albert Butare was co-chair of that conference and will be opening our own conference along with Felix Dodds,” he said in an email. Dodds, a famous author and activist, will also speak at the conference’s closing session Saturday.

Streyle said some of the goals of the conference include debating emerging solutions, identifying how science can inform policy processes, launching a network to connect academics and practitioners, and contributing a sustainable development goals process to the United Nations.

Streyle said more conferences like this one could be on the way to UNC.

“This is the first time that UNC has hosted the Nexus Conference, and if all goes well and it helps to move the Nexus dialogue forward, we intend to make it an annual event,” she said.

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