Food Production and Consumption

More than 1/3 of Earth’s landmass, excluding Antarctica, is used for food production today. With projected global populations expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, the world will need to find ways to produce even more food to feed everyone. 

The types of food we grow and how we grow and consume them have a direct impact on human health, but they also influence greenhouse gas emissions, water use, energy consumption, transportation and supply chains, and land-use decisions that ultimately influence our ability to protect biodiversity and sequester carbon in trees, peatlands, and soil. As of 2010, agriculture was estimated to account for about one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2050

What will it take to be able to feed nearly 10 billion people over the next three decades while also addressing and adapting to climate change? This comprehensive report provides a menu of strategies that could allow us to feed everyone, including a model that estimates how much each solution could contribute to the goals of increasing productivity, decreasing demand, or limiting greenhouse gas emissions. C-PREE Research Scholar and WRI Senior Fellow, Tim Searchinger, is lead author of the report. 

The report was prepared by the World Resources Institute in collaboration with the World Bank, UN Environment, and UNDP, with technical contributions from INRA & CIRAD.

Final Report, July 2019, Available from the World Resources Institute

C-PREE Researcher: Timothy Searchinger

Impacts of Diet on Health, Emissions, and Environment

Unsustainable agricultural practices in China, together with dietary shifts towards more animal products, have increased environmental damage and health concerns. Our researchers model the impacts of shifting from current Chinese diets towards four potential future diets, with the goal of identifying which scenarios would have the most beneficial outcomes for human health, climate, air quality, water and land use. 

Paper forthcoming.

C-PREE Researchers: Yixin Guo, Timothy Searchinger, Denise Mauzerall

Nitrogen Management in Agriculture

Nitrogen is a critical element in agriculture because plants require it for chlorophyll and enzyme development. Plants with insufficient access to nitrogen are stunted and less productive. Addition of nitrogen fertilizers to crops can greatly increase yields.  However, excess nitrogen leads to a variety of environmental problems including emissions of  nitrous oxide - a potent greenhouse gas, eutrophication of lakes and rivers, nitrate pollution of water and air pollution.  Technologies and management practices (TMPs) that reduce the application of nitrogen (N) fertilizer while maintaining crop yields can improve N use efficiency (NUE) and are important tools for meeting the dual challenges of increasing food production and reducing N pollution.

Improvements in nitrogen use efficiency in crop production are critical for food security, environmental protection and climate change. Our researchers analyze a variety of approaches to improving nitrogen use efficiency and the benefits of doing so.

C-PREE Researchers: Denise Mauzerall, David Kanter, Xin Zhang, Yixin Guo, Timothy Searchinger