The Global Food Security programme’s Champion, Professor Tim Benton, reflects on leaving the role after five years in the post.
After five years, my term as the Champion for the UK’s Global Food Security programme has come to an end. It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience, even if at times exhausting and frustrating. So what have I learned?
The issue of food security is not (just) about food, it is about how we choose to live on a planet with limited resources. Food requires land and water and affects climate, biodiversity and our health. The amount of land and water available are finite, as is the climate impact we can tolerate, and the healthcare costs of the malnourished (underweight and overweight).
Continue reading “We are the champions, my friends”
A common voice is needed to make the most of the evidence, says Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton.
Across the world there are a very large number of food experts and commentators, each a vocal advocate of their own analyses, disciplinary backgrounds and framing assumptions.
But whilst they are all well-meaning, there is very little agreement about either what should be done or how it should be done. Different communities of academics – developed vs developing world, agriculture vs nutrition, ‘sustainable’ vs industrial – major on different analyses and different sets of actions.
Continue reading Do we need an IPCC-like international body for food?
Many had expected the 1.5°C temperature goal to drop out of the draft text during the fortnight of negotiations. Now, as the dust settles after the landmark agreement, scientists are grappling with the feasibility of meeting this more ambitious target.
But there was one sector that was largely absent from the talks in Paris. It’s something that we rely on everyday, and continuing to ignore it could mean waving goodbye to that 1.5°C goal. It’s food.
Continue reading Where was food in the COP21 Paris Agreement?
Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton reviews the year and looks ahead to 2016.
Food insecurity remained at the front of mind in 2015 for three reasons.
Firstly, in Europe, we have had the refugee crisis and the horrific events in Paris in November. Part of the reason for the destabilisation of the Middle East was the interaction between food and climate. The 2007-10 Syrian drought undermined rural livelihoods and helped create disaffected urban populations and the 2010 East European heat wave drove up food prices and helped spark the Arab Spring. Food insecurity is more than people simply being hungry.
Global Food Security programme Champion Tim Benton summarises specially commissioned GFS reports on the topic.
Rarely a week goes by without there being news of weather records being broken.
We have recently had the hottest June recorded across four continents. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) trumpeted that in a single week in February 2185 local weather records were broken as an unmoving ridge of high pressure kept the US west coast unseasonably hot, and the east coast unseasonably cold.
Continue reading Future shocks: how resilient is the UK food system to extreme global weather events?
A major new report spells out what science can, and can’t, do to help provide nutritious food for all. Co-author and GFS Champion Tim Benton provides an inside eye on the Milan Expo 2015.
The first ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ famously took place at Crystal Palace in 1851. It spawned a regular series, of which the 99th Universal Exposition will take place in 2015 in Milan, Italy, on the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.
Continue reading The role of research in food and nutrition security
The word ‘nexus’ seems to be cropping up everywhere, but what does it mean for food security? Global Food Security Champion Tim Benton explains.
Following Christmas, often an annual festival of demand and excess, maybe January is the time to think about demand-management. At the end of last year, I was involved in a flurry of meetings with the term ’nexus ‘ in the title. Nexus essentially means interconnectedness, or binding together.
Continue reading Nexology for the New Year
Cutting an American family’s meat consumption by half is equivalent to getting rid of a car. Why isn’t the pressure on, asks Tim Benton.
The most recent figures for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere give one pause for thought. There was a bigger increase in CO2 in the atmosphere over the last year than had been recorded for many years; despite all we know, carbon is increasing faster than ever, and faster than imagined in IPCC’s ‘worst case’ scenarios.
Continue reading Cars, cows and carbon
GFS Champion Tim Benton explains how engaging with people has shifted his views.
I am very privileged in the role of Global Food Security (GFS) Champion to meet many people and discuss the challenges raised by global demand for food outstripping supply. I have had such discussions with a large range of groups in different government departments: Health, Defra, DFID and the FCO in the UK as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments.
Continue reading Framing the big picture: going round in circles
GFS Champion Tim Benton looks to the New Year and considers food waste on national and personal levels (including his own recipes).
I enjoy cooking, so do the kitchen duty when I am at home. And, of course, Christmas is the most intensive cooking festival. I just totted up that I prepared 141 meals, spread over 32 mealtimes. No wonder coming back to work seems restful!
As food waste is such an issue, we worked hard to minimise waste over the period through a concerted effort of planning, inventorying and negotiation over how to eat left overs. As a result, we threw away very little that was avoidable, perhaps though at the expense of over-consumption!
Continue reading Waste not, want not