Director of the Climate Change Institute
Australian National University
Professor Mark Howden is a Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. He has been a major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 1991, with roles in the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and now Sixth Assessment Reports, sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC participants and Al Gore.
He is also an Honorary Professor at Melbourne University, a Vice Chair of the IPCC and a member of the Australian National Climate Science Advisory Committee. He is a former Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO Agriculture.
Professor Howden was on the US Federal Advisory Committee for the 3rd National Climate Assessment and contributes to several major national and international science and policy advisory bodies.
Professor Howden is an expert on how climate variability and climate change will impact on food production and food security and how to adapt to those impacts. He has also developed the national and international greenhouse gas inventories for the agricultural sector and assessed sustainable methods of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
Professor Howden has worked on climate variability, climate change, innovation and adoption issues for more than 30 years in partnership with many industry, community and policy groups via both research and science-policy roles. Issues he has addressed include agriculture and food security, the natural resource base, ecosystems and biodiversity, energy, water and urban systems.
Professor Howden has authored more than 420 publications. The national and international greenhouse gas inventories he helped develop are a fundamental part of the Paris Agreement, helping inform sustainable ways to reduce emissions.
Climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation for tropical agriculture
As climate change gains pace globally, many of the first and most severe impacts are falling on tropical regions. In particular these impacts are occurring in tropical agriculture and food systems with assessments of falling crop yields, decreases in the productivity of livestock and fisheries and increased climatic disruptions. This is likely to have already increased stresses in relation to food security and natural resource management, both on land and in the adjacent oceans. Unfortunately, increasingly negative changes appear to be likely, with projections of widespread and substantial negative future impacts of climate change on tropical agriculture. There are many potential adaptations to climate change, covering options ranging from incremental to transformational change each with different risk vs return profiles. Limits to adaptation and barriers to action are increasingly being seen as critical issues that will need a focus over the next decade. Similarly, integration of practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enable effective adaptation to a variable and changing climate and enhance sustainable and stable agricultural production will likely become more important as climate change progresses. Furthermore, there will be a need to re-frame the science we do and the way we generate and deliver it. For example, science that is 1) demand-driven rather than supply driven, 2) that aligns with the values, needs or capability of users, 3) that is not presented as suitable for operational use when it is not. We can also better connect knowledge and action via co-learning that links closely the users and producers of climate information so as to address the correct time and spatial scales and climate variables and embed this information into the social and institutional processes through which decisions are made.