The GECAFS conceptual framework shows that a relationship exists between current socioeconomic and environmental conditions and current food systems, and highlights the importance of their vulnerability to future scenarios of changed conditions. It also shows how policy and/or technical adaptation options to cope with the added stresses of GEC leads to adapted food systems; and that adaptation options will, in turn, feedback to socioeconomic and environmental conditions. Finally it highlights the importance of decision support in assisting with credible assessment of adaptation options, and especially in analysing their trade-offs between environmental goals (eg minimising damaging feedbacks to carbon budgets, the hydrological cycle and other components of the Earth System) and developmental goals (eg maximising positive feedbacks to food security, livelihoods and other socioeconomic conditions). Improved decision support systems are needed to help in designing and interpreting more quantitative analyses of trade-offs between environmental goals and developmental goals.
A wide range of sciences needs to be integrated to address the GECAFS agenda. Issues related to food availability are addressed by agricultural, ecological and climatological sciences; issues related to food access and food utilisation are largely addressed by social sciences, nutrition sciences and learning and communication sciences. Economists and policy analysts may work on a specific issue or investigate interactions and trade-offs across the entire food system.
These disciplines need to be brought together to conduct research on the three inter-related GECAFS questions. This will lead to the development of interdisciplinary frameworks and methods to address scientific issues underlying the sustainability of food systems worldwide in the context of GEC.
In addition to being of direct value to GECAFS, research output will also benefit IGBP, IHDP and WCRP Core Projects with interests in these topics, other ESSP Joint Projects and activities, and other collaborative agencies such as FAO, WMO and the CGIAR.