American scientist and farmer, Dr Cynthia Rosenzweig, has bagged the prestigious World Food Prize for her work in determining the impact of climate change on global food production.
An agronomist and climatologist, Rosenzweig has been a leader in the field of food and climate since the early 1980s. She had dedicated four decades cultivating our understanding of the biophysical and socio-economic impacts that climate change and food systems have on each other.
“The climate is already changing,” said Rosenzweig. “We have a responsibility to respond and to prepare for the increasing risks of the future. Let’s roll up our sleeves and tackle this challenge now.”
What the award means for the future of food
According to the World Food Prize Foundation, the World Food Prize is a prestigious international award conceived as the “Nobel Peace Prize for Food and Agriculture” with a mission to elevate innovations and inspire action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for all.
“Everyone looks to World Food Prize Laureates both for hope and for solutions. However there is no quick fix or easy answer,” explained Dr Cary Fowler.
Fowler is the Special Envoy for Global Food Security at the United States Department of State.
In his message of congratulations to Rozenzweig, he said, “The World Food Prize recognises and celebrates the grandmasters of global food security. These are men and women who are not only brilliant in their specific fields, but like the best chess players, they are superb strategists.”
How farmer is confronting climate change
Rosenzweig realised early on that climate change is one of the most significant, pervasive and complex challenges currently facing the planet’s food systems.
“I’m not a pessimistic person,” Rosenzweig said. “This is how I look at it: Global climate change is the most important challenge that we face as a human race. But it is becoming a major impetus to move the planet towards sustainability.”
Now a senior research scientist and head of the Climate Impacts Group at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), part of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, Rosenzweig started her career as a farmer. Her research centres on farmers to plan and implement ground-breaking mechanisms that foster resilience to climate change.
All praise to the farmer
The work Rosenzweig has done for NASA and the United Nations among others has empowered lawmakers and policymakers to make smarter decisions to protect agriculture against the changing climate.
These were the sentiments shared by Jose Fernandez and Barbara Stinson.
Fernandez is the Under Secretary of State at the United States Department of State. Speaking at the ceremony, Fernandez said, “Climate change has had a significant impact on global, agricultural production, and its impact is only going to get worse…we likely would not understand all of these problems as well as we do today without the work of Dr Cynthia Rosenzweig. Thanks to her research, we can better predict rising temperatures, extreme weather and how carbon dioxide will affect food production.”
Stinson, who is the president of the World Food Prize Foundation, added that Rosenzweig’s collaborative research is used as scientific evidence by thousands of decision makers looking to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Hunger is a global problem
Food insecurity has become even more widespread and devastating, said Fernandez.
“This is a critical moment for food security. In 2021 more that 160 million people worldwide experienced acute food insecurity, a 19% jump from the year before. Millions more are poised to fall into food insecurity due to the Russian government’s war in Ukraine,” he said.
“When there is insecurity, farmers lose their livelihoods, parents spend hours every day trying to secure their families next meal, hungry children struggle to learn and they suffer irreversible health consequences. This is a humanitarian crisis, this is a health crisis and simply put, it is a moral issue.”
He said that the Russian-Ukraine conflict had resulted in a massive and deteriorating food security challenge for the globe.
“As many of you know, Ukraine supplies a significant amount of the world’s wheat and corn but this can’t happen, when farmers have been forced to fight, or had to flee invading troops and when they do not have the diesel fuel to operate tractors and other equipment,” Fernandez said.
“Russian troops have destroyed port facilities and they have blocked food shipments in the Black Sea. As a result, it has not only displaced Ukrainians that are going hungry, but it has also created hunger around the world for people who depend on these crops.”