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Trish Fisher (MPP/MPH ‘23) awarded Peter Eckstein Prize for her examination of food systems and climate policy

May 18, 2022

Trish Fisher’s (MPP/MPH ‘23) paper, “The ‘Dark Horse’ of Climate Change: Agricultural Methane Governance in the United States and Canada,” earned her the 2022 Peter Eckstein Prize for Interdisciplinary Research. The Eckstein Prize is the Ford School’s top award for interdisciplinary research by a student or team of students.

Fisher’s work examines agricultural methane governance in the U.S. and Canada—two of the world’s largest producers, consumers, and exporters of livestock and animal source food products. Fisher’s exploration into this issue began as an independent study with professor Barry Rabe, and her paper was developed as part of the Ford School’s 2020-2021 North American Colloquium on Climate Policy.

Agricultural methane governance is an under-examined and urgent issue, Fisher contends. “Recent research has demonstrated that even if global combustion of fossil fuels were to cease immediately, emissions from the global food system alone would exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and threaten the preclusion of 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100,” she said.

Fisher’s policy analysis found that neither the U.S. nor Canada is considering policy approaches that come close to the changes necessary to avoid this warming.

“We know what the problem is,” Fisher said. “What is unclear is how to change behavior and food system policy. The solutions lie at the intersection of multiple disciplines and there is tremendous scope for both individual behavioral and policy change.”

Ford School writing instructor Alex Ralph, chair of the Eckstein Prize selection committee, commended Fisher’s rigorous interdisciplinary analysis. “Trish exemplifies what the Eckstein Prize is all about. While Trish's conclusions show how much difficult work remains to address methane's role in climate change, her clear-eyed and urgent work helps us understand the nature of the problem—both the science and the politics—in ways we wouldn't have otherwise. Ultimately, her paper is a call to our better angels.”

Fisher’s analysis included a wide-range literature review across multiple disciplines, including agricultural science, civil engineering, veterinary medicine, environmental, energy, climate science, and health and food policy. She drew on political science frameworks for her analysis, while incorporating a wide variety of scientific disciplines to help frame the issue. She utilized economics in her feasibility assessment of mitigation strategies. Finally, she used her public health training to examine ‘demand-side’ mitigation policies such as dietary guidelines.

“This is the ultimate test of climate justice and global health equity,” Fisher said. “We have to get livestock methane emissions under control. It is on us, the Global North, to make these changes.”

After graduation, Fisher plans to further explore the intersection of food systems and climate change by pursuing a doctoral degree.

Read more about Fisher’s work here:

About the Eckstein Prize

The Peter Eckstein Prize for Interdisciplinary Research and Policy Analysis is awarded to a Ford School student or group of students whose work exhibits the use of theories, concepts, frameworks, research methods, or other tools from two or more disciplines in researching, analyzing, or furthering understanding of a topic, issue or debate related to public policy, domestic or international. The prize was established in 2019 by a gift from Peter Eckstein (LSA ‘59), a student of both economics and social sciences. Throughout his career he saw the value in combining the two fields to explain economic phenomena.