Durban, South Africa. Two eminent scientists who have done pioneering work on the intricate relationship between agriculture, climate and the environment, and who have enhanced our understanding of the probable impact of climate change on agriculture, have been named the winners of the 2009 Ernesto Illy Trieste Science Prize. Pramod Kumar Aggarwal from India and Carlos Clemente Cerri from Brazil were honoured at the opening ceremony of the TWAS 11th General Conference, in Durban, on 20 October. The two will share a USD100,000 award funded by the Ernesto Illy Foundation.
Aggarwal, who is ICAR National Professor at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, has developed a broad range of innovative strategies to examine the potential impact of global warming on agriculture, especially in India.
Studies have shown that in India global climate change could lead to crop losses of 10% to 40% by the end of this century as a result of rising temperatures, more variable rainfall and declining water supplies for irrigation. Aggarwal acknowledges that simple adaption strategies, such as changing the date of planting or relying on more drought-resistant plant varieties, may help reduce agricultural losses – at least initially. But his research also indicates that greater climate variability due to warming will ultimately require more aggressive mitigation and adaptation measures, including developing new genotypes and devising alternative water management systems to reduce agriculture's footprint on the environment.
As one of India's leading climate change experts, Aggarwal has served as the coordinator of a government-sponsored national network designed to quantify the sensitivity of crops, forests, livestock and fisheries to global climate change. Comprised of 150 scientists from 23 universities and research centres, the network has been a major source of capacity building for addressing climate change challenges in his native country.
While Aggarwal's research has focused on the impact of climate change on agriculture and food supplies, Cerri, who is a senior scientist at the Universidade de São Paulo, has led the way in examining the impact of land use changes on climate, especially in Brazil. He has earned an international reputation for his studies of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the conversion of savannas and tropical forests to farm and grazing land in the Amazon.
Cerri's research has broken new ground in detailing the extent of carbon exchange that is taking place between the soil and atmosphere in the face of rapid development in the Amazon, where over 600,000 square kilometres of tropical forest, covering an area four times the size of Greece, have been converted to farm and grazing land.
Cerri has also developed an innovative research methodology and accompanying technology, since adopted by scientists in many parts of the world, to measure the amount of carbon dioxide that is released by ploughed soil and decomposing plant matter. He has been an influential advocate for the adoption of best agricultural management practices – for example, no tillage and minimum tillage farming – to reduce agriculture's impact on global warming. Most recently, he has turned his attention to examining the carbon footprint of biofuels produced from sugarcane to help assess the role of biofuels in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change represents the world's most formidable environmental challenge. It is an issue that has sparked heated debate, not only about its potential impact, but also about the policies and strategies that should be pursued to reduce the risks that it poses. Path-breaking research conducted by eminent scientists like Aggarwal and Cerri is helping us to assess the dimensions of the challenge, while providing a wealth of information to assist policy makers in devising effective responses to this complex and far-reaching problem.
The Ernesto Illy Trieste Science Prize, instituted by TWAS and illycaffè and supported by the Ernesto Illy Foundation, and now in its fifth year, is designed to bring recognition and distinction to the developing world's most eminent scientists who have not yet been honoured by other international award schemes. The award, under the High Patronage of the Presidency of the Republic of Italy, is dedicated to Trieste, a city in northeast Italy that has made significant contributions to the promotion of science in the developing world. The prize, recently renamed for the long-time chairman of illycaffè, Ernesto Illy, rotates among the following fields: climate change and its impact on agriculture in developing countries (2009), energy (2010), materials science (2011) and human health (2012). www.twas.org/honor/TSP info.html
TWAS is the world's foremost academy for scientists from the developing world. Its membership currently consists of 900 eminent scientists, more than 80 percent of whom live and work in the developing world. Based in Trieste, Italy, TWAS sponsors a large number of research and training programmes for scientists from the developing world. www.twas.org
The Ernesto Illy Foundation - created by illycaffè and open to other supporting members - was born with the purpose of developing and increasing the heritage of ideas, activities, and suggestions that Ernesto Illy has left as his legacy. Its mission consists in developing knowledge, ethics and sustainability not only as absolute values but also as a core aspect of business activities, promoting research as the principal way to attain the truth and human progress. The Foundation activities mainly focus on ethics, sustainability, scientific research, coffee culture. Anna Rossi Illy, wife of the late Ernesto and at present Honorary President of illycaffè, is Chairman of the Foundation. Her daughter Anna acts as its vice-president and her sons Francesco, Riccardo, and Andrea are in the board of directors chaired by Roberto Morelli, in charge also of illy’s Università del caffè.
Based in Trieste, Italy, illycaffé produces and markets a unique blend of espresso coffee under a single brand leader in quality. Over 6 million cups of illy espresso coffee are enjoyed every day. illy is sold in over 140 countries around the world and is available in more than 50,000 of the best restaurants and coffee bars. espressamente illy, the chain of franchised Italian-style coffee bars is now present in over 30 countries and comprises 210 outlets. With the aim of spreading the coffee culture, illy has founded the University of coffee, the centre of excellence offering theoretical and practical training on every aspect of coffee for coffee growers, coffee shops staff and enthusiasts. On a global level illycaffè employs over 780 people and has a consolidated turnover of €280 million. (2008 results)