Products of Change


Thu 22 Jul 2021 | by Michelle Urquhart

Cotton growing at risk of climate change

Half of all cotton growing regions face severe climate risks by 2040 if carbon emissions continue to soar according to a new report by the Cotton 2040 initiative. Under a worst-case climate scenario, the report highlights that all global cotton growing regions will be exposed to increased risk from at least one climate hazard by 2040. While this increase ranges from very low to very high risk, half of the world’s cotton growing regions will face drastic changes with high or very high-risk exposure to at least one climate hazard. All six highest cotton-producing countries – India, USA, China, Brazil, Pakistan and Turkey – are exposed to increased climate risk, particularly from wildfire, drought and extreme rainfall. The highest climate risk overall is projected for two regions of the world; northwestern Africa, including northern Sudan and Egypt, and western and southern Asia. Some regions are set to face high or very high exposure to up to seven climate hazards. Cotton exposure to heat stress (defined as temperatures above 40°C) will be an increased risk across 75% of cotton growing regions, with the risk being high or very high across <5% of regions. And 40% of global cotton growing regions are projected to experience a decrease in growing season as temperatures increase beyond the optimum temperature range for cotton growing. The report, “Adapting to climate change - physical risk assessment for global cotton production”, was commissioned by the Cotton 2040 initiative, which is facilitated by international sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future and supported by Laudes Foundation. The analysis was conducted by Cotton 2040 partner and climate-risk specialists Acclimatise, part of Willis Towers Watson’s Climate and Resilience Hub. Sally Uren, chief executive, Forum for the Future, said: “This analysis is a wake-up call for the cotton industry, on which much of the apparel sector is currently hugely reliant. In order to build resilience for a highly disrupted and uncertain future, the widespread shifts to sustainable forms of cotton production must be bolstered by ambitious and aligned action to reduce carbon emissions while also preparing the industry to operate in a very different world.” Access the reports, interactive Climate Risk Explorer tool supporting resources here: Acclimatise - Cotton-2040.