2022 World Food Prize awarded to NASA climate scientist

Leading climatologist, agronomist and former farmer Cynthia Rosenzweig has been named the 2022 World Food Prize Laureate for her pioneering work in modeling the impact of climate change on food production worldwide.

She was recognized for leading the global scientific collaboration that produced the methodology and data used by decision-makers around the world.

Awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation, the $250,000 prize honors Rosenzweig’s achievements as the founder of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, a globally integrated transdisciplinary network of climate and food system modelers. AgMIP is dedicated to advancing methods for improving predictions of the future performance of agricultural and food systems in the face of climate change, providing the evidence base for effective food system transformation. Her leadership of AgMIP has directly helped decision-makers in more than 90 countries enhance their resilience to climate change.

The award announcement was offered during a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Department of State. Barbara Stinson, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, announced the 2022 Laureate, who will officially receive the World Food Prize in a renowned ceremony in October. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Ramin Toloui and Special Envoy for Global Food Security Cary Fowler gave remarks.

“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,” Stinson said. “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.”

Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia Climate School, spent four decades cultivating the understanding of the biophysical and socio-economic impacts of the interaction between climate and food systems via rigorous observational and modeling research approaches. As a pioneer in this field, Rosenzweig has participated as a Lead or Coordinating Lead Author on three global assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Her work contributed to the scientific foundation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the process which led up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015. Her research also supports work in many countries to develop National Adaptation Plans and National Determined Contributions for the UNFCCC.

“I am honored to receive the World Food Prize this year, as food systems are emerging at the forefront of climate change action,” Rosenzweig said. “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 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.’”

“On behalf of the USDA, I congratulate Dr. Rosenzweig on this much deserved honor. Since the 1980s, her work has been instrumental in building resilience in the U.S. agriculture sector,” Vilsack said. “Her creation of AgMIP to further improve vital agricultural data and projections for regions around the world is truly essential to establishing global food security in the era of climate change.”

Rosenzweig has advocated that climate change is one of the most significant, pervasive and complex challenges facing the planet’s food systems. Beginning in the early 1980s, when scientists were asking, “What’s causing climate change?” Rosenzweig was asking, "What will it mean for food?” She completed the first projections of how climate change will affect food production in North America in 1985 and globally in 1994, and she was one of the first scientists to document that climate change was already impacting food production and cultivation. Her early work was an important methodological breakthrough in the beginnings of climate change impact assessment and established the foundations for current work in this field.

Rosenzweig developed her interest in agriculture after she and her husband, Arthur, moved to Tuscany, Italy, where they started a farm, growing vegetables and fruits and raising chickens, goats and pigs. When they returned to New York in 1972, Rosenzweig undertook a two-year degree in agriculture from a technical college on Long Island. She and her husband and friends then started Blue Heron Farm in Thompson Ridge, New York, where they grew sweet corn, Indian corn and cucumbers for pickling. A native of New York, Rosenzweig also served as Co-Chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, and following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she led the team that developed new climate projections that were the basis for the city’s $20 billion rebuilding and resiliency implementation plan.