NASA climate researcher wins world food prize

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A NASA climate researcher who has spent much of her career explaining how global food production must adapt to climate change was awarded the World Food Prize on Thursday.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, agronomist and climatologist, received the $250,000 award in recognition of her innovative modeling of the impact of climate change on food production. She is a Principal Investigator at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an Adjunct Principal Investigator at Columbia Climate School at Columbia University, both based in New York.

Rosenzweig, whose victory was announced at a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, said she hopes it will draw attention to the need to improve food and agricultural systems to mitigate the effects of change. climatic.

“We fundamentally cannot solve climate change unless we address the greenhouse gas emissions issues of the food system, and we cannot ensure food security for all unless we work very hard to develop systems resilient,” she told The Associated Press in an upcoming interview. of the ceremony.

The Des Moines-based World Food Prize Foundation award recognized Rosenzweig as the founder of the Agricultural Models Intercomparison and Improvement Project. The organization attracts scientists from around the world and many disciplines to advance methods for improving predictions of the future performance of agricultural and food systems as the global climate changes.

The foundation credits his work with directly helping policymakers in more than 90 countries establish climate change preparedness plans.

In his work, Rosenzweig has studied how farmers can cope with climate change and how farming makes the problem worse. For example, she contributed to a research paper published last month that found that global agri-food systems create almost a third of the world’s total greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.

Rosenzweig said the world must reduce these emissions and adapt to climate change. She noted that greenhouse gases come from many parts of food production, including the release of carbon and carbon dioxide from the clearing of forests for farmland and the oxidation of carbon from the plowing of fields. . Fertilizer use also releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, farm equipment emits fossil fuels, and livestock release methane.

Rosenzweig, who describes herself as a climate impact scientist, grew up in Scarsdale, New York, a suburb that she says led her to seek out the country life. She moved to Tuscany, Italy with her future husband in her twenties and developed a passion for farming. Back in the United States, she focused her training on agronomy.

She worked as a graduate student at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in the early 1980s, when global climate models were beginning to show the effects of human-generated carbon dioxide on global climate. As the only member of the team to study agronomy, she studied the impact on food production and has been working to answer these questions ever since, she said.

Rosenzweig’s work led to the Environmental Protection Agency’s first projections of the effect of climate change on the nation’s agricultural regions in the agency’s assessment of the potential effects of climate change on the United States. United in 1988. She was the first to draw attention to climate change. of the American Society of Agronomy and organized the first sessions on the subject in the 1980s.

She made the first projections of how climate change will affect food production in North America in 1985 and around the world in 1994, and she was one of the first scientists to document that climate change was already having an impact on food production and culture.

The research organization she founded, AgMIP, is developing adaptation programs, which could include the use of more drought-resistant seeds and better water management practices. In Bangladesh, the group is working with rice farmers to develop new paddy management practices to reduce the significant release of methane produced by the existing process.

She said even the biggest agribusiness companies have shown a willingness to listen. She said some models colleagues have developed show how businesses could be affected by climate change and how they too have a role to play in reversing the impact on the climate.

“This is truly a global partnership of the entire global food system to come together to limit climate change and keep the planet food secure,” she said.

World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson, who announced the winner, credited Rosenzweig for innovations that have helped 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 receive the award and speak at a ceremony in October in Des Moines.

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