Comparing The Environmental Impacts of Global Food Systems

Principal Investigator(s): 

Ben Halpern

This working group is conducting the first-ever comparison of the environmental impacts of the full suite of major food systems, a necessary first step to identify ways to achieve sustainable food production at local, regional, and global scales.

All food production relies on natural resources and, thus, impacts the environment. Impact assessments to date have focused on either one food system, such as beef production, or one impact, such as greenhouse gas emissions, at a time. While valuable, these segmented assessments do not allow for holistic comparisons across different food sources nor fully informed decision-making.

This working group is synthesizing the science on the environmental impacts and sustainability potential of all major food systems. With this information, they are also generating maps indicating where food production systems are located around the world and the magnitude of their impacts.

The maps will then inform a set of scenarios to elucidate the environmental consequences and tradeoffs of the various food production systems into the future, given varying levels of human demand. By understanding these possible futures, decision-makers today can better design policies that will create sustainable food systems.

Working Group Participants

  • Julia Blanchard, University of Sheffield
  • Lex Bouwman, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
  • Richard Cottrell, University of Tasmania
  • Halley Froehlich, NCEAS/UC Santa Barbara
  • Jessica Gephart, University of Virginia
  • Benjamin Halpern, NCEAS/UC Santa Barbara
  • Mario Herrero, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)
  • Caitie Keumpel, University of Queensland
  • Marc Metian, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • Daniel Moran, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Kirsty Nash, University of Tasmania
  • Nis Sand Jacobsen, University of Washington
  • David Williams, UC Santa Barbara     

More information for Project Participants

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