World-renowned climatologist and agronomist Dr Cynthia Rosenszweig has been named the World Food Prize Laureate during the 2022 ceremony. She was named the recipient for her work in models surrounding the impact of climate change on global food systems.
Rosenzweig’s achievements as the founder of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), a globally integrated transdisciplinary network of climate and food system modellers, was recognised with a $250 000 prize from the World Food Prize Foundation.
Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an adjunct senior research scientist at Columbia’s Climate School, has spent four decades using rigorous observational and modelling research approaches to better understand the biophysical and socioeconomic impacts of the interaction between climate and food systems.
She has been a lead or coordinating lead author on three global assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, making her a pioneer in this field (IPCC). Her work helped to provide the scientific framework for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which culminated to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
“I am honored to announce the selection of Dr Rosenzweig as the 2022 Laureate given the tremendous contributions of her career over the last four decades. Dr Rosenzweig has brought powerful computational tools into practical application in agriculture and food systems. Her work has shaped our understanding of the relationship between food systems and climate change.
“She advanced the use of multiple models and created networks of scientists to use them. These innovations have contributed to many countries’ ability to respond effectively to the crisis we face in climate change,” said Barbra Stinson, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.
“I am honored to receive the World Food Prize this year, as food systems are emerging at the forefront of climate change action,” said Dr Rosenzweig.
“Climate change cannot be restrained without attention to food system emissions, and food security for all cannot be provided without resilience to increasing climate extremes. I salute the modelers around the world in the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) for their tireless work helping countries to achieve food security both now and in the future under changing climate conditions. As we move into a crucial decade of action on climate change, food needs to be ‘at the table’.”
Climate change, according to Rosenzweig, is one of the most major, pervasive, and complex concerns facing the world’s food systems. Starting in the early 1980s, scientists wondered, “What causes climate change?” “What would it mean for food?”
She was one of the first scientists to record how climate change is already affecting food production and agriculture, having done the first forecasts of how climate change will effect food production in North America in 1985 and globally in 1994. Her early work was a significant methodological breakthrough in the early days of climate change impact assessment, laying the groundwork for ongoing research in the subject.
After she and her husband Arthur relocated to Tuscany, Italy, where they began a farm, cultivating vegetables and fruits and keeping chickens, goats, and pigs, Rosenzweig developed an interest in agriculture. She obtained a two-year degree in agriculture from a Long Island technical college when they returned to New York in 1972.
She founded Blue Heron Farm in Thompson Ridge, New York, with her husband and friends, where they farmed sweet corn, Indian corn, and pickling cucumbers.
“In Rosenzweig’s work, the Selection Committee recognised the growing power and importance of scientific collaboration to impart greater understanding of the effects of climate change on agriculture and food systems, as well as the value of utilising scientific evidence to inform decisions made about local, national, and global mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Through her long and sustained collaborative efforts, Rosenzweig has contributed immensely to our knowledge of the complex relationship between food systems and climate change,” said Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize Laureate and chair of the Laureate Selection Committee.