Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Agriculture and Long Run Sustainability

October 14, 2011

When the National Public Radio’s Planet Money team sat down to discuss an October 2011 article in Nature Magazine entitled “Solution for a cultivated planet,” they queried scientists and economists around the world, including Purdue University’s Thomas Hertel, on the topic of worldwide food supplies. Excerpts from this interview aired October 12, 2011 on NPR’s radio broadcast and can be heard at All Things Considered.

Hertel’s comments were also included in the NPR’s Food Blog, the Salt by Dan Charles (posted online October 12, 2011) entitled “Facing Planetary Enemy No. 1: Agriculture.”  Experts predict the demand for food will double over the next 40 years.  Hertel said whenfood gets scarce, markets do respond. Prices go up, farming gets more profitable, farmers grow more food, and consumers reduce and re-orient their food consumption towards cheaper products. Markets will balance supply and demand for food.

Hertel also shed light on this topic in his 2010 Presidential Address at the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association’s Annual Meeting entitled "The Global Supply and Demand for Land in 2050: A Perfect Storm?".  There has been a convergence of interest in the global farm and food system and its contributions to feeding the world’s population as well as to ensuring the environmental sustainability of the planet, he said. However, Hertel concludes that the ‘perfect storms’ that many envision will likely to be localized, with farm and food supply satisfying demand at the global scale.

About Thomas Hertel

Professor Hertel is a Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, where his research focuses on the economy-wide impacts of global trade and environmental policies.

Dr. Hertel is a Fellow and Past-President of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA). He is also the founder and Executive Director of the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) which now encompasses 9,000 researchers in 161 countries around the world. His most recent research has focused on the impacts of energy and climate policies on global land use and poverty.  The Project maintains a global economic data base and an applied general equilibrium modeling framework which are documented in the book: Global Trade Analysis: Modeling and Applications, edited by Dr. Hertel, and published by Cambridge University Press in 1997.

Previously, Professor Hertel has conducted extensive research on the impacts of multilateral trade agreements, including the linkages between global trade policies and poverty in developing countries. His book on the poverty impacts of a WTO agreement (co-edited with Alan Winters) received the AAEA Quality of Communication award. Other AAEA awards include: Distinguished Policy Contribution and Outstanding Journal Article.

Dr. Hertel's most recent research has focused on the impacts of energy and climate policies on global land use and poverty. He has recently co-edited a book on the subject of global land use and climate policy (with Steven Rose and Richard Tol) and has also published journal papers relating to the global land use impacts of biofuels and the poverty impacts of climate change.


Dr. Hertel is currently on sabbatical working on several projects related to climate impacts on agriculture, as well as the effects of climate mitigation policies at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He is also co-teaching a seminar for Stanford graduate students and faculty on long run determinants of global land use.

American Geophysical Union Fall 2011 Meeting

For those of you attending this fall’s AGU meeting, a reminder that Tom and David Lobell are co-chairs of the session

Land Use Change to 2050: A Critical Assessment(GC31D)on Wednesday, December 7;  8:00 AM - 10:00 AM; Room 3001; Moscone West.

Session details: Global land demands will be shaped by many factors: population, incomes, trade, bioenergy production, and rising values for ecosystem services like carbon storage. At the same time, determinants of land productivity and availability, such as agricultural technology, climate, water, soil quality, and land use policies, are also changing. Individual drivers of global land use have been studied by separate communities, yet an integrated view of the major constraints to meeting future needs is only now emerging. This session focuses on research results relevant to projecting global land use patterns to 2050, with a goal of bringing together a diversity of approaches and assumptions.




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