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Managing Water for Combined Mitigation and Adaptation in Agricultural Systems

Sonali McDermid, Associate Professor, Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies, New York University

Apr 29 2024 | 11:00am - 12:00pm PT 1414 Bren Hall / Online

Headshot of Sonali McDermid
Sonali McDermid

Dr. Sonali McDermid's research links atmospheric science, crop models, and statistics to uncover how agriculture shapes, and in turn is impacted by, the global climate. Her talk will focus on potential climate adaptation and mitigation synergies in the context of water management in agriculture.
—Tamma Carleton, Assistant Professor, Bren School

Watch a recording of this talk here


Achieving sustainable food production demands reducing agricultural GHG emissions while simultaneously facilitating agricultural systems’ adaptation to climate change. Furthermore, on-farm efforts towards mitigation and adaptation may have a variety of biophysical and socioeconomic cobenefits and trade-offs that must be assessed in whole farming systems contexts. To these ends, I will introduce a recently-launched effort by the Agricultural Model Intercomparison Project to evaluate Mitigation and Adaptation Co-Benefits in agriculture. This effort advances integrated assessment protocols to link climate, crop and agricultural economic models with soil models that resolve GHG fluxes and soil carbon dynamics for regional climate change mitigation and adaptation assessments. We are currently applying this framework to rice systems in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and India. Early results suggest that specific combinations of management options, inclusive of alternate wetting and drying, earlier transplanting, and altered nutrient management, can provide important adaptation and mitigation benefits under current and future climate change. Nevertheless, scaling these solutions, both in their efficacy and adoption, requires further consideration of important co-benefits, trade-offs, and uncertainties, particularly related to water management, labor productivity, and soil biogeochemistry. I will reflect on these results’ implications for sustainability in agricultural production systems, as well as uncertainty and research needs for such assessments moving forward.


Sonali Shukla McDermid is a climate scientist, Associate Professor and Chair of the NYU Dept. of Environmental Studies. Her research investigates climate change impacts on agriculture and food security, and the impacts of land management on the environment. She is a climate co-lead for the Agricultural Intercomparison Project, evaluating regional climate change impacts on food security, and is also a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies affiliate, where she develops Earth system models to understand the impacts of land use and management on the climate system. McDermid is a Andrew Carnegie Fellow (2021) and Fulbright-Kalam Fellow awardee (2020), which supports her work on climate mitigation and adaptation in agriculture. She holds a B.A. in Physics from NYU, and masters and Ph.D. from the Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Prior to NYU, she was a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA GISS in NYC.


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