World Food Prize Goes to Scientist Focused on Climate Agriculture Impacts
The winner of this year’s World Food Prize is Cynthia Rosenzweig, an honor for scientists whose work improves the quality and availability of food. Rosenzweig, a senior researcher at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has been leading the EPA’s modeling of climate change impacts on agriculture since the late '80s. These days, her work is literally more in the field, speaking with farmers about how their industry is experiencing climate change effects and discussing possible solutions. She also founded the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, which brings together researchers from around the world to study the intersection of climate change and agriculture. She plans to donate the entirety of the $250,000 prize to research on food and climate change.
NASA: Climate Change Could Affect Global Agriculture Within 10 Years, November 1, 2021.
Columbia University: Food and Climate Change, Jun 8, 2021.
Why This Matters
To borrow from Rosenzweig’s own words from an interview with the Associated Press ahead of the ceremony, "We basically cannot solve climate change unless we address the issues of the greenhouse gas emissions from the food system, and we cannot provide food security for all unless we work really hard to develop resilient systems.”
"That's why food is so important,” she told NPR, "because everybody on the planet eats. The food system offers all these opportunities to roll up sleeves and work on solving climate change.
Sentient Media: Food System Emissions | How Can We Reduce Our Carbon Footprint?, June 18, 2021.
Cornell University: Climate change reduced farming productivity by 21% since 1961, Apr 1, 2021.
CBC: How a different approach to farming is helping fight climate change, April 27, 2021.
Emissions And Agriculture
More than a third of all climate-damaging emissions worldwide come from agricultural systems, so making changes to the process could contribute considerable progress toward global carbon reduction goals. Agricultural emissions come from a number of sources such as the clearing of forestland for farmland and the tilling of fields, which releases carbon. Meat production is especially carbon-intensive with one study revealing that 20 livestock and dairy companies collectively produce more greenhouse gas emissions than Britain, France, or Germany. Meanwhile, the five largest producers put the same amount of climate-damaging emissions as Exxon.
In order to sustain current levels of meat consumption, as much as 80% of farmland is needed for grazing livestock. Alternatively, this same land could be directly used for growing food.
Verify: Yes, cattle are the top source of methane emissions in the US, December 14, 2021.
Ceres: Food Emissions 50 | Progress by Food Companies in Disclosing Emissions and Setting Targets, February 17, 2022.
Yale Law School: "Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Animal Agriculture" with Ben Lilliston, October 29, 2021.
Tom's Outdoors: Changing Paradigms | Regenerative Agriculture: a Solution to our Global Crisis? | Full Documentary, May 10, 2021.