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Dr. Susan Capalbo traveled to the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s Congress on Adapting Food Production to a Changing Climate in Washington DC to talk about one of the most pressing, hot button issues of our time: how to make policies that address food security in the face of both climate change and rising global food demand. The multipronged problem necessitates an equally complex approach, which is where the concept of climate-smart agriculture becomes critical. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach that seeks to better understand agricultural systems at various scales to the reality of the increasing and heterogeneous effects of climate change. CSA entails coordination among “farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways” and food security (Lipper et al., 2014). The approach is used to support decisions for farms systems worldwide, which are – and will continue to be – differently affected by climate change. CSA seeks to expand the “safe operating space” for sustaining food production, meeting world demands, and contributing to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions.
Capalbo’s presentation, Adopting public policies and priorities to encourage climate-smart agricultural practices, provided some background on the “economic lens” for addressing a sustainable future, and discussed current policy practices used to promote CSA, where they were effective, and where and how they could be improved. Capalbo said that the notion that science leads to better policy has been a “consistent message for 50 years of integrated research.” About the integration of research required to inform policy that is climate-smart, Capalbo said that it is “perhaps the most the challenging thing and the most exciting thing we can do.” Capalbo emphasized that the devil is in the details, and suggested integrating modeling tools at both the farm and landscape level to simulate the effects on climate change on farm systems under various scenarios. Being able to better predict how policies, such as tax incentives for adopting new conservation practices, could lead to reduced climate change vulnerability, can help inform sound decision-making and provide information to farmers and land managers.
Lipper et al.2014. Climate-smart agriculture for food security. Nature Climate Change 4, 1068–1072. doi:10.1038/nclimate2437