POSTED: March 3, 2018
System Dynamics

Complexity in the global agricultural system

CUSP Research Fellow Roberto Pasqualino presenting his latest systems modelling work at the international Agri World 2018 conference
Paris, 5 March 2018

Based on Nihat Sinan Erul / Unsplash.com (published under CC.0)

Abstract

The complexity of the global agricultural system is a tremendous barrier to the understanding of possible consequences and impacts of policies and business decisions on society at both global and national levels. Aiming at feeding 9 billion people by 2050, agriculture has a fundamental role for human development in providing livelihood to 40% of global population as both food and energy supplier, and representing a key leverage for most SDGs’ achievement. At the same time agriculture is both a cause of, and the most vulnerable economic sector to, climate change. It consumes above 70% of freshwater withdrawal globally, and is heavily dependent on mineral resources at the cusp of global production. Continuous and cumulative environmental degradation puts agriculture at risk of dangerous ecosystem tipping points including sea level rise, change in nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and most frequent and disruptive climatic shocks (i.e. extreme weather events). Aware of the long term risk to human condition on the planet, international agreements and measures will be gradually taken at both international and national levels to coercively bring the world within the ecosystem’s limits in the next decades.

Within a complex network of trading countries, such policies might result in economic shocks and cascade effects among countries with implication on their economic performance. A world system computer model is being developed at CUSP and GSI, relying on system dynamics modelling, networks, econometric analysis and public available datasets to model food and energy systems and trade among macro-regions and allows for testing of both climate and policy shocks to assess their possible outcomes and risks in the medium to long term future. The final outcome is to provide policy makers with a data transparent simulation tool to support clarity and resilience of decision making outcomes while leading on a global scale transition towards sustainability.

Figure 1 | Complex net of relationships around agriculture, and climate and policy shocks as a threat to agricultural system's resilience

The World Congress on Plant Biotechnology and Agriculture was designed to bring the major areas of research in the field together, aiming to accelerate scientific discoveries and major innovations related to Agricultural Sciences and similar disciplines. Roberto is presenting his modelling work at the Sustainable Agriculture track of the conference. For more details about the conference, please visit the Agri World 2018 website.

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