The Collaborative Institute

Building Connections

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

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.

April 1, 2011
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)

Learning from the Tsunami in Japan

While the recent earthquake off the coast of Japan and subsequent tsunami cannot be linked directly to climate change, the aftermath provides important lessons for the countries worldwide regarding climate-induced disasters.

As Christopher Mims at Grist points out:

“Melting ice masses change the pressures on the underlying earth, which can lead to earthquakes and tsunamis, but that’s just the beginning. Rising seas also change the balance of mass across earth’s surface, putting new strain on old earthquake faults.” As ice caps melt and oceans rise, we could see many more earthquakes as fault lines become more stressed.

As Bill McGuire states:

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the loading and unloading of the Earth’s crust by ice or water can trigger seismic and volcanic activity and even landslides. Dumping the weight of a kilometer-thick ice sheet onto a continent or removing a deep column of water from the ocean floor will inevitably affect the stresses and strains on the underlying rock. …[While] not every volcanic eruption and earthquake in the years to come will have a climate-change link… [As] the century progresses we should not be surprised by more geological disasters as a direct and indirect result of dramatic changes to our environment.”

Following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration released an article warning all members of coastal communities to be prepared for tsunamis, as well as be knowledgeable about the warning signs and warning systems already in place.* March 20-26, 2011 was declared Tsunami Awareness Week and the NOAA generated a website dedicated to Tsunami Awareness.

Watch following video on Tsunami Awareness, from NOAA:

Tsunami Awareness | NOAA

To learn more about Japan and its history of earthquakes and tsunamis, especially in the region recently affected, check out this interview between Yale e360 and Geophysicist Lori Dengler.

Interested in disaster relief efforts in Japan? offers “Google Crisis Response,” aggregating a variety of information such as donation opportunities and alerts into accessible location. The Google page can be found here.

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