Water storage (natural or manmade) is one way in which we buffer against climate risks involving inadequate water. Not only is irrigation a way to deal with the occasional dry spell, but in many places it is critical to maintaining current crop yields. This makes agriculture by far the biggest consumer of water amongst human activities. This dependence on water is responsible for rapid declines in groundwater in large parts of India. Climate change will affect both the demand and supply of water, but our own activities make this relationship even more complex. Recent studies show that widespread irrigation may be weakening the monsoons themselves. Yet as anyone living in India knows, sometimes and in some places, the issue is too much water in too short a time.
However, we deal with climate change in the context of many other large-scale trends: changing cropping systems and practices, rises in population as well as average incomes, and changing tastes, to name a few. The global interconnections in the food system means that what happens in one place may affect what happens halfway around the globe in a good way or bad. At the same time, we are trying to grapple with how specific to the local region the vulnerabilities and adaptations are. My task as TCi’s first post-doc will involve trying to grapple with these very challenging questions. Luckily for me, I can lean on the ears and brains of the fantastic group of experts in many different disciplines we have here within TCi and at Cornell.