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posted 07/01/02

Climate Prediction Used to Improve Global Food Security
Columbia University trains professionals to apply climate information to agriculture

When scientists at the Columbia Earth Institute's 2002 State of the Planet conference claimed that they had the technical means to end world hunger, climate prediction science was part of the solution.

In July 2002, scientists at Columbia's International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) will spend three weeks intensively training nineteen professionals from thirteen countries (including Vietnam, Ethiopia, Brazil, Philippines, Ghana, India, China, Chile, S. Africa, and Uruguay) in the use of climate prediction science to "address climate-sensitive aspects of agricultural production."

The agenda, biographies of the participants, and other information about the training course can be viewed at

What: Advanced Training Institute on Climatic Variability and Food Security

When: July 8-26, 2002

Where: International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, Palisades NY

Global food security is often thought of as a problem of food banks plugging holes to avoid famine, but scientists at the Columbia Earth Institute recognize that good management of soil, water, forests, and other resources can ease much of the volatility that leads to hunger. Earth Institute scientists from several fields (including water, agriculture, energy, climate and health) will be taking this message to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August, in a delegation led by the Institute's new Director, Jeffrey Sachs.

The IRI training institute, which is being run by agricultural systems specialist Dr. James Hansen, will cover not only climate modeling but also issues such as communication: what information do farmers need to make rational decisions about matters such as crop choice and timing based on climate predictions?

"Our emerging ability to predict climate months in advance offers a still under-exploited opportunity to improve management of agricultural production systems and the natural resources on which they depend," says Hansen. "The training institute will equip young developing country agriculture and food security professionals to apply advances in climate prediction to their home institutions' ongoing efforts to address problems of food insecurity and rural poverty."

The International Research Institute for Climate Prediction aims to improve quality of life and environmental sustainability through the use of climate prediction science. From forecasting and modeling to fishery management, IRI researchers focus on where climate information and public policy intersect. By collaborating with societies to make climate a routine part of regional planning and decision-making, the IRI enables communities to better manage the challenges posed by climate fluctuation. For more information, visit

About The Earth Institute
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit