Climate change threatens future of cotton production and supply chains, warns WTW report

Half of the world’s cotton-growing regions are at high risk of hotter climates, water scarcity and extreme weather events by 2040 if there is no reduction in carbon emissions during the next 20 years, according to a new report by Willis Towers Watson (WTW).

The threat to the future of the textile industry and supply chains needs action today to build resilience against climate change, warns Cotton 2040 and the Forum for the Future, which backed the report.

All six of the highest cotton-producing countries in the world – India, US, China, Brazil, Pakistan and Turkey – are exposed to increased climate risk, with particular threats from wildfire, drought and extreme rainfall, the report finds.

Analysis conducted by Cotton 2040 partner and climate-risk specialist Acclimatise, part of WTW’s climate and resilience hub, reveals that 40% of global cotton-growing regions face lower yields as temperatures are projected to increase above optimum growing levels. Yields are also expected to be hit by extremes in rainfall and water scarcity.

Half of all cotton-production regions are set to be exposed to increased risk from drought, while 20% will be at increased risk from flooding by 2040. Some 30% of regions growing cotton could be living with increased risk from landslides, the report finds. All cotton-growing regions will also be exposed to increased risk from wildfires, it adds.

Under the worst-case climate scenario, the report says all of the world’s cotton-growing regions will be exposed to higher risks from at least one climate hazard by 2040, while half will face high or very high risk-exposure levels. The report says some regions face high or very high exposure to as many as seven climate hazards.

Alastair Baglee, director, corporates – climate and resilience hub at WTW, said: “As it stands, emission-reduction commitments and targets are being missed by the majority of countries, meaning that warming of more than 3°C is probable by the end of this century. However successful we are with decarbonisation, we will face decades of unavoidable climate change and disruption. Preparing today is essential if we are to limit the impacts of climate change on society.”

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