Knowledge for better food systems

Journal Article: The Impacts of climate change on terrestrial Earth surface systems

Dr. Jasper Knight, Wits University (South Africa), and Dr. Stephan Harrison, University of Exeter (UK) argue that governments and institutions should focus on developing adaptation policies to address and mitigate the impact of global warming, rather than putting emphasis on carbon cap-and-trade schemes. Their arguments are presented in a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change entitled “The impact of climate change on terrestrial Earth surface systems.”


National and international policy initiatives have focused on reducing carbon emissions as a means by which to limit future climate warming. Much less attention has been paid by policymakers to monitoring, modelling and managing the impacts of climate change on the dynamics of Earth surface systems, including glaciers, rivers, mountains and coasts. This is a critical omission, however, as Earth surface systems provide water and soil resources, sustain ecosystem services and strongly influence biogeochemical climate feedbacks in ways that are as yet uncertain. We argue that there is a significant policy gap regarding the management of Earth surface systems' impacts under climate change that needs to be closed to facilitate the sustainability of cross-national Earth surface resource use. It is also a significant challenge to the scientific community to better understand Earth surface systems' sensitivity to climate forcing.

Citation as follows:

Knight, J., & Harrison, S. (2012). The impacts of climate change on terrestrial Earth surface systems. Nature Climate Change, Vol. 2, Issue 11.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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