Asking So What About Climate Change

Cynthia Rosenzweig at her farm in Tuscany, Italy, in 1969. She now works in a lab at Columbia University but her research takes her to farms around the world.
Shari Lifson

The expected effects of climate change have haunted these pages plenty over the years. We have not heard of this prize before but as practitioners who believe in the value of science, especially the value of good scientific questions, in mitigating those effects we appreciate that the World Food Prize goes to former farmer who answers climate change question: ‘So what?’

For scientist – and former farmer – Cynthia Rosenzweig, her work on climate change has always revolved around one big question: “So what?”

“Impacts of climate change are crucially important,” she says. “If the climate changes and nothing happened, why would we care?”

In the early days of climate science in the ’80s, she was one of the first researchers making projections of how the changing climate would affect North American crops. Still, the researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies knew she needed to go further.

That’s why years before her NASA colleague James Hansen gave key 1988 Congressional testimony outlining the link between greenhouse gasses and climate change, Rosenzweig wrote him a note about climate change. She told him she wanted to expand her computer modeling to better understand its potential impact on global crops.

For the better part of the last four decades that’s what Rosenzweig has done. She tells NPR that while her first climate modeling work may have started with her sitting at a computer, her more recent work means she’s on farms around the world, engaging with stakeholders to determine how crops are already affected by the climate crisis and what can be done about it…

Read the whole story here.

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