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Food security under a changing climate: frontiers of science or adaptation frontiers?

posted on 2023-05-22, 14:09 authored by Howden, M, Nelson, RA, Crimp, S
Global food security is a growing challenge which will interact with climate change. Effective adaptation of food systems to climate change is likely to become more important over time, requiring progress in both science and in adaptation (actual implementation) by decisionmakers along the value chain. We undertake an exploratory analysis of the frontiers of science and of adaptation and by so doing we describe how science goals and methods can be altered to better achieve societal outcomes. Our analysis suggests that for most of the issues addressed here, there is a mismatch between the science and adaptation frontiers with the science frontier often lagging. For example, some decision- makers are already implementing integrated adaptation responses whereas much of the science is still focused on component-based assessments. In other cases the framing of the science frontier may be inhibiting the adaptation frontier. For example, framing climate change as a threat rather than being inclusive of opportunity or using overly complex definitions and analyses. In a few cases where co-learning approaches are used, the science frontier and adaptation frontiers are largely aligned. For example, this occurs with participatory action research approaches which link closely the users and producers of climate information so as to address the correct time and spatial scales and climate variables and embed this information into the social and institutional processes through which decisions are made. As climate change evolves, there will be a change in the types of science needed and a reduction in the relative contribution of biophysical sciences. In particular, science-policy decisions are likely to evolve towards a decision-centred framing of adaptation rather than the past climate-centred framing which continually refocuses attention on the component of the system that is least tractable. Accompanying this there is a need to redesign climate change scenarios so that they can help decision-makers to be more inclusive of different levels and dimensions of adaptation, to maximise learning from adaptation studies and to develop clear adaptation policy rationales.


Publication title

Climate Adaptation Futures


J Palutikof, SL Boulter, AJ Ash, MS Smith, M Parry, M Waschka, D Guitart






Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)



Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2013 Wiley

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Food safety

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