[IRC Arizona] October 16 and 17 – Feedback on the CNRS-University of Arizona meeting on « Climate change and health »

The CNRS-UArizona International Research Center (IRC) for Global Grand Challenges was created in 2021. It focuses on key areas of collaboration in the environmental field on which CNRS and the University of Arizona, at the institutional level, have set scientific priorities for the future. Three issues have been identified : “Habitability in our future: What Makes A World Fit For Life, and How to Keep it That Way“, “Preparedness to Planetary Challenges: Climate change and Health” and “Integrated Food-Energy-Water Solutions at Scale”. A first workshop on agrivoltaics was organized in April as part of the integrated food-energy-water axis, and other initiatives continue to be explored. Within the scope of the IRC’s second focus area on climate change and health, a meeting was held in Washington D.C. in October.

On October 16 and 17, deputy scientific directors of CNRS institutes, representatives of the CNRS-UArizona International Research Center (IRC) on Global Grand Challenges, representatives of the CNRS office in Washington D.C., Michael Dake (Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Arizona) and several researchers from the University of Arizona met in the US capital to deepen cooperation between CNRS and the University of Arizona on one of the IRC’s strategic directions, entitled “Preparedness to Planetary Challenges: Climate Change and Health”. Two sub-themes of priority interest have been identified for discussion: how to preserve health in very arid zones, and how to guarantee food/nutritional security in the face of climate change. Arizona is an interesting case study in the face of climate change, and was used as an example over the two days to justify the urgency of climate action. This meeting aimed at exploring how the CNRS and the University of Arizona could tackle these challenges together, using a multidisciplinary approach.

Panel discussions on food security and precision nutrition
© Erell Gloaguen/CNRS

The first day of the meeting was devoted to scientific presentations on the identified sub-areas by UA researchers. The first session focused on issues related to food security and nutrition, and how these physiological needs could be protected in the face of climate change. As examples, the speakers presented the amazing properties of Tepary beans and spirulina, both of which are high quality dietary proteins that stand up well to complicated climates. The second session focused on the impacts of climate change on health, and in particular on climate-related stress in arid zones and pollution. In particular, the issue of per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances, also known as PFAS, synthetic fluorinated organic compounds found everywhere in nature and in organisms, was addressed.

Sylvette Tourmente, Director of the CNRS Office in Washington D.C., presenting the strategies of the CNRS
© Erell Gloaguen/CNRS

The CNRS had the opportunity to talk about its existing tools for international collaboration, and in particular the International Research Center with UArizona, focusing on environmental issues and their social, societal and health aspects.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences also presented the resources of the National Institutes of Health (exploratory grants for climate change, development of Health Research Centers such as the Southwest Center on Resilience for Climate Change and Health in Arizona) and how the agency is integrating these health and climate issues into its integrated transdisciplinary research strategy.

The second day was devoted to multiple workshops on both topics, including both the CNRS and the University of Arizona, to identify how the two partners could continue to work together, leverage resources and other partnerships, and develop a common framework that would allow these reflections to continue and lead to concrete actions in the future. A number of topics emerged from the discussions, with the intention of pursuing these points of interest within possible working groups in coming months.

On October 18, CNRS researchers from France had the opportunity to meet with the Office for Science and Technology of the French Embassy in the United States. This small-scale meeting provided an opportunity to identify the CNRS’s main concerns in the fields of pollution, health, nutrition and climate change, and to gain an overview of how these issues are addressed in the United States.

All participants in the “Pollution and health” session – University of Arizona and CNRS
© Jeanne Revil/CNRS

The CNRS delegation travelling to Washington from Paris included : Anne-Marie Gué, Scientific Delegate for Interdisciplinarity at the Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS), Martina Knoop, Director of the Mission for Transversal and Interdisciplinary Initiatives (MITI), Sylvie Guerder, Deputy Scientific Director at the Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB), Jérôme Rose, Deputy Scientific Director at the National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU) and Franck Poupeau, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (INSHS). The International Reseach Center was respresented by Régis Ferrière, Deputy Director of the IRC and Director of the CNRS-U. Arizona International Research Laboratory iGlobes (Interdisciplinary and Global Environmental Studies).

On the University of Arizona side, participants included (but were not limited to): Michael Dake, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Floyd “Ski” Chilton, Professor at the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness & Director of the Center for Precision Nutrition and Wellness, Duke Pauli, Associate Professor at the School of Plant Sciences, Marc Verhougstraete, Associate Professor in Environmental Health Sciences at the Community, Environment & Policy Department, A. Elizabeth (Betsy) Arnold, Professor at the School of Plant Sciences & at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Frank A. von Hippel, Professor in Environmental Health Sciences at the Community, Environment & Policy Department, Joel Cuello, Professor of Agricultural-Biosystems Engineering, Nathan Cherrington, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Pharmacy and Director of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and Kenneth Wilund, Director and Professor at the School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness.

External participants included the National Institutes of Health (via Gwen Collman, Environmental Epidemiologist, Director of the Office of Scientific Coordination of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) and the international organization World Economic Forum (via Andy Moose, Head of Health and Wellness).

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