Modeling the Effects of Climate Change on the Global Food System

An interdisciplinary team of Johns Hopkins researchers are modeling the effect of climate variables on all major food production sectors. By using models, the team is examining how the entire food system is affected by the availability and demand of resources and locations of population growth.

Fishermen pulling their nets in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo credit: Henric Silversnö



Climate change poses fundamental threats to human health and well-being and is considered by some to be the biggest public health problem of the 21st century (McMichael, 2013; Costello, 2009).  Climate change threatens global health through its effects on food by increasing food insecurity or hunger. Resources analyzing the effect of climate change on certain sectors of food production are plentiful, but very little exists concerning climate change and the entire food system.

Cindy Parker, Assistant Scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, has teamed up with researchers from the Departments of Civil Engineering, Earth and Planetary Sciences, as well as from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), to develop a mathematical model to look at how all climate variables will affect each major food production sectors – agriculture, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture. This includes looking at the effects of shocks, such as extreme weather events, on the food system.

The model aims to help understand how a changing climate is affecting food production, distribution and access in light of energy and water availability, population growth and food demand. It also aims to understand the effects climate change may have on human health via the food system.

The project is supported by the Johns Hopkins Discovery Award.


The Research Team

Principal Investigator:
Cindy Parker,  Assistant Scientist, Dept of Environmental Health and Engineering (and former E²SHI Associate Director)
  • Jonathan Haskett, Associate Director of Energy, Resources and Environment Program (SAIS)
  • Ben Hobbs, E²SHI Director and Professor, Dept of Environmental Health and Engineering
  • Roni Neff, E²SHI Associate and Director of Food System Sustainability and Public Health, Center for a Livable Future
  • Sauleh Siddiqui, E²SHI Associate and Assistant Professor, Dept of Civil Engineering
  • Ben Zaitchik, E²SHI Associate and Assistant Professor, Dept of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Postdoctoral Researcher:
Craig Bakker, Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept of Environmental Health and Engineering

Works Cited

Costello, A., Abbas, M., Allen, A., Ball, S., Bell, S., Bellamy, R., Friel, S., (...), Patterson, C. "Managing the health effects of climate change." Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission. Lancet. 2009;373(9676):1693-1733.

McMichael A. "Global health: Globalization, climate change, and human health." NEJM. 2013;368(14):1335-1343.

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt