Climate change: NASA climate scientist wins World Food Prize

A NASA climate scientist who has spent much of his career explaining how global food production must adapt to a changing climate was awarded the World Food Prize on Wednesday. Five. Cynthia Rosenzweig, an agronomist and climatologist, has been awarded a $250,000 prize in recognition of her innovative modeling of the effects of climate change on food production. She is a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an adjunct research scientist at Columbia University’s Columbia School of Climate, both based in New York.

Rosenzweig, the winner of which was announced during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, said she hopes it will focus attention on the need to improve food and agricultural systems to cushion the impact of the climate change. climate change.

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“We cannot fundamentally solve the problem of climate change unless we address the problems of greenhouse gas emissions from the food system, and we cannot provide food security for all. people unless we work really hard to develop resilient systems,” she told The Associated Press in an interview before the ceremony.

Jose Fernandez, the state’s deputy minister for economic growth, energy and the environment, said more than 160 million people around the world experienced food insecurity last year, up 19 percent from the previous year. and one of the root causes is reduced food production. due to global warming.

“Climate change already has a negative and significant impact on global agricultural production and its impact will only get worse. We are seeing rice fields drowned in floods. We are seeing other crops wither in drought. We are seeing shellfish die in more acidic oceans and crop diseases are spreading to new regions. We would not have understood all of these issues today, he said, without the work of Dr Cynthia Rosenzweig, this year’s World Food Prize winner.

The Des Moines-based World Food Prize Foundation award recognizes Rosenzweig as the founder of the Agricultural Model Comparison and Improvement Project. The organization engages scientists from around the world and from a variety of disciplines to refine methods that improve predictions about the future performance of agricultural and food systems as the global climate changes. change.

The foundation recognizes her work in directly helping decision-makers in more than 90 countries develop climate change preparedness plans.

In her work, Rosenzweig has studied how farmers can cope with climate change and how agriculture exacerbates the problem. For example, she contributed to a research paper published last month that said global agricultural systems generate nearly a third of all global greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.

Rosenzweig said the world needs to reduce such emissions and adapt to climate change. She notes that greenhouse gases come from many parts of food production, including the release of carbon and carbon dioxide through clearing forests for arable land and the oxidation of carbon through tilling fields. rice field. Fertilizer use also releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, agricultural equipment emits fossil fuels, and livestock emits methane.

Rosenzweig, who describes herself as a climate impact scientist, grew up in Scarsdale, New York, a suburban area she says led her to seek out life in the country. She moved to Tuscany, Italy, with her fiancé in her 20s and developed a passion for agriculture. When she returned to the United States, she focused on agronomic education.

She worked as a PhD student at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in the early 1980s, when global climate models began to show the impact of man-made carbon dioxide on the global climate. As the only member of the agronomic research team, she studied the impact on food production and has since worked to answer those questions.

Rosenzweig’s work led to the Environmental Protection Agency’s first projections of the effects of climate change on the nation’s agricultural regions in its assessment of the potential impacts of climate change. climate change for the United States in 1988. She was the first to bring climate change to the attention of the American Agronomist Association and she held the first sessions on the issue in the 1980s. .

She completed the first projections of how climate change would affect food production in North America in 1985 and globally in 1994, and she was one of the first scientists first noted that climate change is already affecting food production and cultivation.

The research organization she founded, AgMIP, develops adaptation packages, which can include the use of more drought-tolerant seeds and improved water management practices. In Bangladesh, the team is working with rice farmers to develop new rice field management methods to reduce methane emissions from the existing process.

Even the largest agribusiness corporations have shown a willingness to listen, she said. She said some of the models her colleagues have developed show how businesses can be affected by climate change and how they also play a role in reversing the impact on climate. .

“It is truly a global partnership of all global food systems to work together to limit climate change and maintain food security for the planet,” she said.

World Food Prize Organization President Barbara Stinson, who announced the winners, recognized Rosenzweig for innovations that help countries respond to climate change.

Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug created the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food. Rosenzweig will accept the award and speak at a ceremony in October in Des Moines.

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