Green Track (C-40): Food & Water Security: Data Gaps & Actionable Information: Threat Magnitude, Distribution, Key Determinants

- Session Description (click to collapse)

A changing climate will have numerous and severe implications for food and water security. In this first session, we will discuss data gaps and actionable information relevant to developing well-targeted and effective interventions. More specifically, we will examine information needs relevant to understanding the magnitude of these threats, their key determinants, and their current and potential future distribution. The discussion will include examination of threats to food production, as well as additional threats to food and water security arising from food distribution as well as social and political factors. We will also discuss agricultural methods that exacerbate both greenhouse gas emissions and food and water security threats. We will discuss what other background information may be needed to shape and drive interventions.

After raising a set of issues, we will use technological tools and discussion to arrive at sets of priority needs for research and actionable information. This discussion will draw upon the following frameworks, as well as concepts brought in by participants:

  • Risk management, in which priorities are set based on the likelihood of a threat coming to pass and the magnitude of potential consequences
  • A public health-oriented framework, in which priorities are set based on factors that include the extent to which an approach is likely to be effective, feasibility of action, cost, ethical acceptability, political and social will, and potential for unintended risks [drawn from the Intervention Decision Matrix by Fowler and Dannenberg]

Recommended Resources

- Moderator (click to collapse)

Roni Neff

Roni Neff is the Research and Policy Director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and is an Assistant Scientist with the school’s Departments of Environmental Health Sciences and Health Policy & Management. Her research focuses on public health policy and social science themes relevant to understanding and changing food systems, including addressing disparities and promoting environmental sustainability. Particular interests include public health links to food system ecological concerns (climate change, peak oil, soil), public health and agricultural policy (especially the Farm Bill), and access to sustainably produced/healthy food. Her climate change research has focused on food-related greenhouse gas emissions and on measuring and communicating these impacts. Dr. Neff is editing a textbook on food systems and public health on behalf of the Center for a Livable Future, to be published by Jossey Bass.  She oversees the Center for a Livable Future's policy activities, including efforts to advance public health priorities in the 2012 Farm Bill.  She also oversees the Center's research activities, including doctoral fellowships and directed research.  CLF is an academic center focused on connections between diet, food production, environment, and public health (

Dr. Neff has worked in public health research, policy, and practice for 20 years. She is a member of the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society, Alpha Chapter.


Ph.D., Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, 2006
S.M., Health and Social Behavior, Harvard University School of Public Health, 1997
A.B., Brown University, 1989

- Notes (click to collapse)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Water Supplies and Food Security: Data Gaps and Information - Threat Magnitude, Distribution, Key Determinants

Facilitator: Roni Neff, PhD MS - Research & Policy Director, Center for a Livable Future; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Moderator: Nathan Bos, PhD - Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Introduction by Roni Neff

Objectives - for GAIA
Ideas for information needs & prioritization
development of white papers
build interdisciplinary connections

Participant Introductions:
Robert Martin, Rockefeller Foundation, Climate & Health Team; work on agriculture issues and food security
Molly Macauly, Resources for the Future; interested in energy and land use
Shri Shankur, Independent consultant on WR, climate, and sustainability
Paul Turner, Faculty, U of Maryland, microtoxin exposure in developing countries and climate implications for spread of microtoxins
John Lewis, SAIS and Terra Global Capital; USAID -retired; Agriculture, Forestry & Climate
___ - student at SAIS of John Lewis
Glen Fountain, APL; filling information gaps in academics and laboratory 
Mahnaz Harrison; SAIS , Fulbright grantee to Georgia interested in water supplies
___ Mattea; Columbia University, how to use climate information to aid decision makers in public health, early warning systems in infectious diseases and waterborne disease
Seema Iyer; City of Baltimore Planning Dept. - Food security
Mohammed Behnassi?, Morocco - Fellow in Maxwell school
Alaina Brannis - SPH environmental health & sustainability
Melissa Poulsen - PhD candidate at SPH
Jared Margulies - Farming for the future program at CLF
Mark Olsthorn - researcher UM college Park, climate implications on food security
Jonathan Cooper; MSE candidate, Water Resources Engineering, JHU 

Roni Neff -
Expertise on mitigation of climate change impacts on food security

Purpose of session: Threat magnitude, distribution, & key determinants
- How do we know priorities for adaptation and mitigation?
Entire conversation affected by concurrent threats (i.e. energy, soil impacts, biodiversity, population)

Discuss & prioritize gaps and needs for actionable information
- Food/Water security threat magnitude
- Determinants
- distribution
- Other information needed

- current state of information
- type of info needed to drive change
- insight from practice / policy

- Risk Management
- Public Health Orientation (both potential for unintended risks and unintended benefits)

Terminology Discussion:
"Mitigation" (def: greenhouse gas emissions, risk to vulnerability...)
...for this conference - GHG emissions
We need to understand a problem of language, in broad terms as relating to risk to vulnerability and in specific terms in this academic community as GHG emissions
"Threat" (def. - 
For a useful definition, must affect both discipines and work to achieve goals across disciplines
"Climate Change" (def. - UN definition)
More useful for this process if we stick with definitions agreed upon in Kyoto, widely accepted UN definitions.
Don't reinvent the wheel, start with definitions understood by a larger population, to avoid confusing the process

Food Security Worldwide - Background
- 925 M people undernourished 2010

Water Security Worldwide - Statistics
- 1.2 Billion lacking access to safe water

(Both seen in the context of rapidly growing population)

1-3 deg C rise in mid to high latitude - mixed implications for crop productivity
1-3 deg C rise in low latitudes - sharp decline in crop productivity
Above 3 deg C rise - productivity harmed in all latitudes

Food Production, Water Availability, Distribution, ...what else?

What are the data needs, information for action, both from practitioners and policymakers?
- Water Irrigation (idea - flight over Middle east seeing a slice of green in the desert), 
how drip irrigation has been used in the desert
Policy gaps for implementation of drip irrigation vs. other types or rainfed irrigation
- Data gaps for small-scale agriculture to be able to respond and make adjustments within a shared ecosystem
- Who are the decision makers that need to take action, what level are they operating, 
what are the tools needed to take action? (i.e. farmers up to National governments)
- Also, location of decision makers in the most stressed areas?
(Cite US program by USDA & NOAA to do mid-scale climate projections, using data we have to 
project interannually to get information to farmers)
(Farm Service Agency is a model for taking information into the hands of farmers to be able to take action)
- Ownership is a key issue for taking action, robust rule of law is necessary for social trust
(not primarily an information problem)
- role of civil society and strengthening development in parallel with governance
- Creating complex model integrating climate data with policital, social factors to do benchmarking and comparative analysis
- At what point is food production no longer a distribution problem and it becomes a quantity and production problem due 
to population rise?  What are actions we can take in terms of reducing GHG emissions? 
- Quality of food and nutrition needs - what kind of calories?
- Need for global science governance to provide access to scientific information and technologies across developed and deveoping
- Must discover barriers that prevent action beyond lack of information or access to science/technolgy (i.e. politics)
- Communication of knowledge must flow in two directions (i.e. from farmers to modelers and vice versa)

What are the actionable items (and information needs) on the consumer & distribution level?
- need to connect mitigation strategies from a climate change perspective to address other problems that people are facing
- problems with land availability, "land grabs", and incorporating this understanding into solution strategies
- Impact of Genetically modified crops as a key determinant
- Evaluating distribution chains for food by region to get a better chain
- Behavioral science studies to understand why our current food system is in place
- impacts of global trade on local food systems
- how do we get a more efficienty system for bringing food to cities? what are opportunities?

Priorities - what kind of messages do we want to come out of this conference?
(areas that provide greatest opportunity for further research and research translation)

Of the ideas we have discussed, how do we prioritize?
For GAIA, in order to produce white papers guiding the research needs
in terms of a likelihood of a threat coming to pass
and the magnitude of potential consequences?

-How to get land tenure security?
-SES, cultural context, power sharing
-Identifying key actors, underlying norms, and key strategies of each actor
-Political power
-Supply Chains 
-Education of/by peasant farmers (must flow in both directions)
-Gender issues, especially in developing countries
-Modeling improvements on distribution projections
-Geodistribution and shifts in 'breadbaskets'
-Importance of local knowledge and how to share it
-What are people doing already that could be transferred
-Cultural shift that is occuring
-Impact of migrations
-Understanding costs for public health ('immediacy of the cost')
-Barriers to change



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Are we talking to ourselves? by Molly.Macauley
adaptation by Mark.Olsthoorn
risk prioritization by Glen.Fountain
What is a "threat" by Molly.Macauley
"actionable" information by Molly.Macauley