Frontiers in climate smart food systems: outlining the research space

S Whitfield, AJ Challinor, RM Rees

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    35 Citations (Scopus)
    61 Downloads (Pure)


    Food systems, from the local to the global, face a complex set of challenges in the twenty-first century. As recognized in the latest round of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change talks, it is clear that global targets for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions cannot be met without major alterations to agriculture and supply chains. At the same time, these systems must adapt to changing and uncertain climatic conditions. Across national and international agendas, agriculture plays a further central role in achieving food security, driving economic growth, alleviating poverty, and sustaining ecological functions and services. In reality, food and agriculture intersect with every one of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), underlining growing global concern for, sometimes highly contested debate over, sustainability in food systems. It is in food systems, perhaps more than anywhere else, that we have the clearest illustrations of the contemporary realities of climate change. If evidence were needed that the challenges of a changing climate are not just those of the future, but of today, then, recent food price shocks, crop failures, and famine crises should suffice (FSIN, 2017). These events are not, of course, determined by weather alone, but are the manifestation of complex and cross-scale social, political, economic, and ecological processes, and should serve as a warning against simple and deterministic interpretations of contemporary food systems. Grappling with these complex issues is essential, if we are to understand how climate change contributes toward risks to the food system, thereby enabling targeted coordination of policies within and across governments. In this short paper, we briefly discuss the burgeoning approach of climate-smart agriculture, which seeks to integrate complex issues and set out a direction for change in contemporary systems. Only broad systemic perspectives, as advocated and advanced in this journal section, positions us (as a broad and diverse academic community) to engage with the grand challenges of providing healthy diets for a growing population, avoiding unsustainable land use change, and adapting to and mitigating climate change. The primary aim of this piece is, therefore, to set out our call for journal contributions from interdisciplinary, cross-scalar, and systemic approaches to the goal of designing climate-smart food systems. We argue here that these designs include and necessarily transcend climate-smart agriculture.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2
    JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
    Early online date31 Jan 2018
    Publication statusFirst published - 31 Jan 2018

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