The Collaborative Institute

Building Connections

June 30, 2011
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Food Security and Climate Change

At CIOCS we are working to make connections between climate change, human security and the world’s oceans. Recently, there’s been plenty of news about our warming planet and the impact this has on food security, which relates directly to human security. As Justin Gillis shows in this NY Times article from early June, consumption of basic food items is increasing while production is stagnant or even decreasing. This difference leads to higher food prices, which has a direct impact on social conditions and can lead to volatile situations, as seen in recent years. As Gillis articulates, science has helped show that climate change is helping to destabilize the food system. As climate changes, so do weather patterns. Changing “norms” mean that agriculture has to adapt, while extreme weather and natural disasters disrupt production altogether. All of these changes have put an increased strain on water supplies and on the farmers themselves. The article demonstrates how agricultural production has changed in past decades, often in response to changing technology and demands. As agricultural demands and climate change, people worldwide may experience more unstable social conditions, such as poverty, food or water shortages, or even violence.

Thomas Friedman’s recent Op-Ed piece helps put this increased strain in another light. He breaks down a recent book by Paul Gilding, a veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, called The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World. Gilding’s work shows that currently humans are using about 1.5 earths at the current global growth rates. However, we only have one planet. Essentially, we’re working at 150% of our sustainable capacity. Gilding helps show how changes are connected:

“If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees,” writes Gilding. “If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the Earth’s CO2 blanket, the Earth gets warmer. If you do all these and many more things at once, you change the way the whole system of planet Earth behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts. This is not speculation; this is high school science.”

In a follow-up article, Gillis poses the question, based on all the information given in the first article: “What do we need to do?” He provides a run-down of ongoing research and projects that are helping to determine answers to that very question. Specifically, he mentions the Beddington Report which examines the need for increased intensive agricultural, but with respect to economically and environmentally sustainable practices. Science and agriculture are working to determine how things are changing and what can be done to adapt or possibly turn things around.

As all of these articles demonstrate, the changing climate has a direct impact on human life and security, by impacting food supplies and the ability to sustain life through agriculture. Just as importantly, these changes impact oceans on earth, as well. 53% of the United States population lives in coastal areas, and many of those residents depend directly on the oceans for their livelihood and personal consumption. Even those who do not live near the coast depend on the oceans for food and other needs. The effects of climate change on weather patterns, the oceans, and, subsequently, human life can be seen in recent events. These events have many lessons to offer regarding preparation and adaptation for human and food security.

December 1, 2010
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Climate Change Denial: GOP Members Speak Out

Recently, we reported on how recent elections potentially signify a further shift away from climate change legislation, in favor of profit-maximizing practices that jeopardize health and safety. However, Dot Earth’s Andrew Revkin brings our attention to the "Rational Discussion of Climate Change" hosted by the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology on November 17, 2010. Revkin expresses some hope that this "(relatively) civil hearing on basic questions related to climate science and policy options" by the lame-duck congressional members is indicative of future work by incoming members. It’s possible at least two Republicans may help push their party in a different direction.

Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee, Bob Inglis (R-SC), had some harsh words for his fellow GOPers who are stridently disputing the truth and scientific proof of global warming: "They slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and they’re experts on climate change. They substitute their judgment for people who have Ph.D.s and work tirelessly [on climate change]." He points out the cogent science being presented, as well as the economic benefits of acting now.

Inglis isn’t the only Republican calling out the GOP. In the November 19, 2010, edition of the Washington Post, Sherwood Boehlert, a former Republication representative of New York’s 24th District in Congress (1983-2007), calls on "fellow Republicans to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become [their] party’s line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities." He points out that he understands "there is a natural aversion to more government regulation. But that should be included in the debate about how to respond to climate change, not as an excuse to deny the problem’s existence." As he makes clear, the science presented from experts around the globe is sound. The science should not be questioned; the questions lie in how to respond to climate change legislatively.

Will these voices be heard over the din of climate change denial? Can partisan politics take a backseat to human and national security, as well as economic competition, in order to address climate change?

To get more info on events and other news, sign up for the CIOCS listserv by emailing CIOCS@umb.edu.



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