Physical climate risk to cotton growing regions
From the shirts we wear to the towels we use and the sheets we sleep on, cotton affects all our daily lives. Cotton makes up around 31% of all fibre used in the textile sector globally and supports the livelihoods of almost 350 million people. But the future of this important fibre is uncertain.
The entire cotton value chain – from producers and processors to brands, retailers or traders – is facing increasing exposure to climate risks, including rising temperatures, changes to water availability and extreme weather events. At the same time, the sector itself can also contribute to climate change. To thrive in an increasingly climate-disrupted world, the cotton sector, and the wider textiles industry, require radical change which can only be achieved through sector-wide collaborative action to understand and adapt to the changing climate.
The resources on this website are designed to enable actors across the cotton industry to better understand the serious future challenges to cotton production, and inspire more ambitious action to reduce emissions and build the sector’s resilience.
Cotton 2040 Climate Risk Explorer
The Cotton 2040 Climate Risk Explorer Tool is an interactive map showing physical climate risk to cotton-growing regions globally. The tool presents relative climate risk scores for twelve climate indicators which are tailored to cotton’s key climate sensitivities projected for the 2040s under a high emission scenario (RCP 8.5). The climate indicators are: growing season length, heat stress, total rainfall during the growing season, extreme rainfall events, long-term drought, short-term drought, fluvial flooding, coastal flooding, strong winds, storms, wildfire and landslides.
Explore the tool to access more detailed information on each climate hazard, understand the practical implications on cotton production, zoom into specific cotton-growing regions, and access links to further resources. Watch a demonstration here.
Two analyses were undertaken as part of the Cotton 2040 initiative’s Planning for Climate Adaptation workstream: The world’s first Global Analysis of Climate Risks to cotton-growing regions, and a detailed Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment of cotton-growing regions in India.
The studies were conducted by Cotton 2040 partner and climate-risk specialists Acclimatise (part of Willis Tower Watson’s Climate and Resilience Hub). The Cotton 2040 initiative is facilitated by international sustainability non-profit, Forum for the Future.
Click on the dropdown menu below to explore the reports.
Download Full Report.
Download Executive Summary.
- All global cotton-growing regions will be exposed to increased risk from at least one climate hazard.
- Half of all cotton-growing regions will face high or very high climate risk exposure to at least one climate hazard.
- 75% of the world's cotton-growing regions face greater exposure to heat stress (defined as temperatures above 40°C)
- 40% of global cotton-growing regions are projected to experience a decrease in growing season
- 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.
Download Full Report.
Download Executive Summary.
This report is the first-ever detailed physical climate risk and vulnerability assessment for India’s cotton value chain. The study considers a wide range of climate hazards including thresholds that are specific to cotton production. A total of 41 climate hazard indicators and socio-economic indicators were used to assess the risk not only to production but also to the wider cotton value chain.
The study focused on cotton cultivation and cotton processing in 13 districts across three of India's major cotton-growing states: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana.
- Climate change could expose one third of India's cotton growing regions to high risks from temperature increases, changes to rainfall patterns and extreme weather events by 2040.
- In the 2040s, cotton-growing regions across India will be subject to greater heat stress than under present-day conditions.
- In some regions, this increase in temperature is projected tobe coupled by an increase in water stress
- All districts are projected to experience an increase in the number of days at which labour productivity significantly decreases.
- Temperatures across Gujarat are projected to exceed the thermal tolerance limits for cotton more often than in other districts.
- Common areas of vulnerability across all districts include multidimensional poverty, low female work participation rates, low male and female literacy rates, and limited access to banking services, technology and information.
The findings of year 1 will be used to build a common understanding as to how climate change is likely to impact key stakeholder groups and regions. Stakeholders will engage with the findings from Year 1 to explore potential interventions that could build resilience. These will be used to create an industry “Guidance” document, in order to share the research findings with wider industry. Year 2 will also raise awareness as to the need for adaptation.
The two reports and the Climate Risk Explorer tool are designed to enable actors across the cotton industry to better understand the serious future challenges to cotton production, and inspire more ambitious action to reduce emissions and build the sector’s resilience.
The following resources can help you get started with further making sense of the implications and taking action.
1. Navigation guide and decision-making toolkit
The team are developing this guide to support your navigation of the microsite, alongside workshop materials to support discussion and decision making within your organisation. These materials will be made available shortly. In the interim, please feel free to email us about the release of this guide should you have any questions.
2. CottonUP Guide
One important first step all brands and retailers can take is to increase their sourcing of sustainable cotton. Created by Cotton 2040, the CottonUP Guide exists to help apparel industry professionals develop and implement sourcing strategies across multiple cotton standards, such as organic, Fairtrade, the Better Cotton Initiative, US Cotton Trust Protocol and others. The Guide is periodically updated to best reflect the ever-evolving cotton industry and is available in English, German and Japanese. Supporting partners include Anthesis and The Global Alliance for Sustainable Supply Chain.
Help shape future Cotton 2040 resources and events by letting us know your burning questions about climate change, or telling us about useful information, initiatives or case studies that you think we should be aware of. Use the feedback form below to provide your comments.
Some questions to help guide your responses might be: What do you think some of the most important considerations are for the cotton sector? Have you seen any responses that address adaptation and mitigation at the same time? What are some of the key questions you’re holding? What information would be most useful in helping you to respond to climate risks?
Our upcoming events are listed below. We hope you can join us!
1. WEBINAR: Cottoning on to climate change
Where: Online (Zoom)
Date: Wednesday 14 July 2021
Time: 12:30-2:00pm BST / 7:30-9:00am EST / 5-6:30pm IST / 7:30-9:00pm SGT / 9:00-10:30pm AEST
2. Region-specific workshops, Autumn 2021
This Autumn, Cotton 2040 will be hosting region-specific workshops to help actors across the cotton value chain better understand the implications of the insights and begin to plan for collaborative action. Details will be available soon.
3. Catch up: Cottoning on to climate change
Watch a recording of our recent webinar, learn more about the key findings and data from the research and hear from producers and industry actors what these findings mean for their organisations, and what’s needed to respond to the challenge.
Why is there a need to consider the impacts of climate change on cotton production? Why should the cotton sector consider the impacts of climate change? What are the key findings from the Global and India analysis reports? And what does all this mean for farmers, brands and retailers, cotton standards and other supply chain actors? Watch the videos to learn more.
Cotton 2040: Project Background
Cotton 2040 is a multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to facilitate the shift to a sustainable global cotton industry which is resilient in a changing climate; which uses business models that support sustainable production and livelihoods; and where sustainably produced cotton is the norm.
The initiative is convened by Forum for the Future, with expert partners Acclimatise, Anthesis and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Cotton 2040 aims to accelerate progress and maximise the impact of existing sustainability initiatives across the global cotton industry, by bringing together leading international brands and retailers, sustainable cotton standards, existing industry initiatives and other stakeholders across the value chain. Learn more at https://www.forumforthefuture.org/cotton-2040.
Planning for Climate Adaptation workstream
The resources on this site were created as part of the Cotton 2040 “Planning for Climate Adaptation” workstream. The aim of the workstream is to create sector-wide collaborative action to understand and adapt to the changing climate. The two studies were generated in response to the lack of comprehensive, readily available information about how the climate crisis is likely to impact cotton production, its supply chain, and the nature of the industry over the coming decades.
Over 2021 and 2022, we will be working with cotton producers, brands and retailers and industry initiatives to develop a common understanding across the cotton system as to how climate change is likely to impact key stakeholders and regions, and agree on a shared set of priorities for urgent as well as long-term action across the cotton sector.
To find out more contact Hannah Cunneen
About this collaboration
Acclimatise is a Willis Towers Watson Company and is part of its Climate and Resilience Hub. This microsite is a product of Acclimatise’s media and communications division, which specialises in climate communications and knowledge management.