Cascading risks are disrupting food supply chains: Transformative adaptation is the way forward – World
In 2022, the early onset of heat waves in South Asia was a unique example of cumulative and cascading risks in this interconnected world. The heat waves that hit India earlier this year coincided with the critical milking and grain-filling stage of the wheat harvest in mid-March. Consequently, India’s wheat yields have fallen by 10% to 15%, with forecast production for 2022-23 falling from 110 to 99 million tonnes. Food security risks and the sudden spike in world wheat prices due to a supply shortage have led the Indian government to impose a broad ban on wheat exports, with some exceptions to neighboring countries, and to help countries complement their national food security policies. Additionally, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also disrupted wheat exports from the Black Sea region.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (2021/2022) highlights that multiple and interacting climate and non-climate risks are worsening and cascading across sectors and regions . Weather and climate extremes also have cross-border economic and social impacts due to interconnected supply chains, markets and natural resource flows.
Adaptation planning and implementation is accelerating around the world. However, these measures are mainly targeted at short-term risks, focused on planning rather than implementation, small-scale, fragmented and sector-specific. The recent Adaptation Gap Report 2021 published by UNEP highlights that there are significant gaps between current investments in adaptation and those needed to respond effectively to climate risks and impacts. Estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times higher than current international public financial flows for adaptation. This adaptation finance gap is widening. A review of updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) reveals that the four key sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, water and disaster risk management , represent three-quarters of quantified adaptation financing needs.
Indeed, the effectiveness of adaptation measures should also be impacted due to the rapid increase in temperatures. Currently, within soft limits, integrated, risk-informed and multi-sectoral adaptation solutions deliver far-reaching benefits. However, with increasing temperature, many natural adaptive systems are approaching hard limits of their natural adaptive capacity and others will reach this limit with increasing global warming. Above 1.5°C of global warming, some ecosystem-based adaptation measures will reach their hard limits, losing their effectiveness in providing benefits to people.
In the above context, transformative adaptation is an effective and sustainable way to reduce climate risk. Given the soft and hard limits, adaptation measures also need to be innovative in order to address compounding and cascading emerging risks. Following the recent IPCC report, ESCAP narrowed the global warming patterns to Asia and the Pacific and its subregions. The Asia-Pacific 1.5°C Risk Landscape: Sub-Regional Pathways for Adaptation and Resilience was launched on May 25, 2022 and presents the results of this modeling study. The report calls for a transformative adaptation program in the most risky region.
ESCAP analysis shows that under all climate change scenarios, and relative to global averages, Asia and the Pacific will be the most affected by heavy rainfall, followed by agricultural drought, hot temperatures/heatwaves and warming winds with the intensification of tropical cyclones. In addition, the report highlights how each ESCAP subregion will be affected in medium- and long-term climate scenarios, and where new hotspots of exposure and vulnerability to climate-induced cascading multi-hazard scenarios will be created. . This analysis highlights important details because global and regional analysis often masks sub-regional specificities.
Transformative adaptation must consider risks at all levels – regional, sub-regional, national and sub-national. For transboundary hazards that represent shared vulnerabilities and risks, adaptation measures should include the integration of climate change scenarios into various plans, programs, etc. in the medium and long term, both at national and sub-regional level. In light of this, the ESCAP report presents a set of adaptation priorities – (i) strengthening multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning systems; (ii) improving agricultural production in drylands; (iii) make water resource management more resilient; (iv) nature-based solutions; and (v) making new infrastructure resilient. For example, the recent ESCAP study on inland water-related disasters in the Aral Sea shows that adaptation measures such as strengthening multiple risk assessment and early warning systems as well as Improving dryland agricultural production had the highest priority score in the five Central Asian countries under the various climate change scenarios. Similarly, ESCAP’s work on impact-based forecasting that supports the WMO-led initiative and the Beijing Climate Center – Forum on Regional Climate Monitoring – Assessment-Prediction for Asia (FOCRA ), assess the potential impacts of the Asian monsoon this year on agriculture. Impact scenarios provide strategic information to avoid disruptions in food supply chains by indicating potential shortfalls in food production well in advance and issuing warnings of any impending food security challenges.
In addition, understanding transboundary risks and adaptation priorities should take into account the NDC, NAP, sector adaptation plans, national disaster risk reduction strategies and the voluntary national review. In this regard, the ESCAP Risk and Resilience Portal with adaptation priorities vis-à-vis the climate risk profiles of 56 ESCAP members and associate members is an important initiative that contributes to filling the gaps on adaptation in Asia and the Pacific.
Note: The lead authors were supported by Armita Behboodi, Rahul Kumar Suman, Akash Shrivastav and Shashwat Avi of Disaster Risk Reduction Section, IDD, ESCAP in the preparation and research of this article.