Food Systems & Nutrition

Brown, white, and black cows standing in front of an old wooden barn

The Issue

Agriculture, nutrition and food security, and climate change are deeply interlinked. Changes to the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere can have a drastic effect on the production of crops and livestock. Severe heat and drought can shorten the growing season and deplete underground water making agriculture unsustainable. A combination of warmer temperatures and runoff from fertilizers can also affect aquatic life, which is a staple food supply in many cultures. Furthermore, agricultural production is an enormous contributor to greenhouse gases worldwide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture, forestry and other land use changes are responsible for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and agriculture accounts for 10% of emissions in the U.S. This fraction may grow as populations around the world transition from a plant-based diet toward a diet heavier in animal products. Mitigating climate change while also enabling adequate food security and nutrition for all people around the world will require innovative approaches that consider the many interconnections between climate, agriculture and health.

CHI Research & Action

CHI researchers are exploring how extreme weather can impact both the production and distribution of society’s food supply. For example, recent research highlighted the global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition and climate change and the multiple impacts of agricultural production on greenhouse gases, air pollution, suboptimal nutrition and health. At the community scale, an analysis of food security in Fairbanks, Alaska addressed community concerns and the need for public input on food security policies. CHI researchers have also analyzed the effects of extreme heat on agriculture workers. Addressing the issue of food security in a globalized society with an unstable climate is an issue that requires extensive research to be successfully addressed.

Our Experts

Bill Dietz
Director of Summer M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness
Professor of Prevention and Community Health
GW Milken Institute School of Public Health

Susan Anenberg
Director, Climate & Health Institute
Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health and of Global Health
GW Milken Institute School for Public Health