Climate Change and Global Food Systems: Supporting Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies with Research

J-WAFS is leading an interdisciplinary multi-university effort that will develop collaborations and research priorities for food systems threatened by climate change. The goal is to develop a prioritized, actionable research agenda and collaboratively identify a path to achieving global food security that meets the challenges posed by the climate crisis.

Food systems and climate change are intricately linked. Agriculture is one of the economic sectors expected to face the most severe impacts of climate change, with productivity highly dependent on climate, water availability, and the health of ecosystems.  The production, storage, and transport of food is the largest cause of environmental change and one of the principal contributors to climate change. Food systems are responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with agricultural activities accounting for up to 86% of total food system emissions. At a time when more food is needed to feed a rapidly growing population, ensuring the resilience of our food systems is critical.

This multi-institutional effort, the Alliance for Food and Climate Systems Transformation, is bringing together researchers representing a range of disciplines at MIT and in partner institutions, along with targeted stakeholders, funders, and policy makers from across the food and agriculture sectors.

Building on research recommendations from J-WAFS’ 2018 expert workshop, “Climate Change, Agriculture, Water, and Food Security: What we know and don’t know,” the project is applying convergence research methods to identify the most important knowledge gaps and research needs at the nexus of climate change and food systems, and stimulate new cross disciplinary collaborations and innovative research proposals.

The Alliance for Food and Climate Systems Transformation:

In order to bring research to action to ensure resilient food systems in the face of climate change, in 2019 J-WAFS  formed the Alliance for Food and Climate Systems Transformation, a cross-disciplinary institutional collaboration that brings cutting-edge researchers together with global stakeholders to produce convergence research that catalyzes innovation solutions to mitigate climate impacts of food systems and significantly improves their resilience.

The Alliance aims to work with a diverse group of stakeholders to better understand the knowledge gaps and research and innovation needs in climate and food systems that a group of world-class research institutions can help fill. The effort is lead by by MIT and involves the following institutions:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project
  • Colorado State University
  • Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research
  • IFPRI: International Food Policy Research Institute
  • McGill University
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of California-Davis
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of South Australia
  • University of Talca
  • Wageningen University and Research

By forming the Alliance, we are creating a forum where expert scholars can engage with and be responsive to the research needs of stakeholders in order to help close the gap between academia, policy, and practice.  The goal? Ensure that stakeholders are applying research that is relevant, cutting-edge, and focused on the best on-the-ground outcomes.

This group of scholars and stakeholders combines expertise in plant, soil, and climate science, agricultural technologies, agribusiness, economics, behavior change and communication, marketing, nutrition, and public policy.   Through it, we seek to develop innovative, robust approaches to formulating and evaluating adaptation and mitigation strategies that can effectively address a variety of serious food security challenges. 

Read the concept note

Find out more about our collaborating institutions

Members of the Research Alliance for Climate and Food Systems (RACFS)

J-WAFS is collaborating with institutions that are leaders in agriculture, nutrition, and food systems, and provide complementary expertise. They are: