Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

  • 18th November, 2022
  • 6 min reading

We tend to think of climate change as something that will happen at some point in the future. In fact, the effects of climate change are being felt already, and will continue to increase over time, with the potential for significant step changes in global weather patterns as climate warming continues to accelerate.

Global temperatures have already risen 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels, causing observable changes in weather patterns around the globe, resulting in loss of life, loss of property, political instability, displacement of populations, disruptions to ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, threats to global food supplies, and a host of other significant repercussions. Some of the observable events that are already occurring as a result of climate change include:

  • Drought – In 2012, the NOAA reported that about 33 percent of the contiguous US was affected by severe to extreme drought. In parts of the west scientists speculate that “megadrought” conditions are taking hold.
  • Flooding – So far in 2022, above average rainfall and devastating flooding have affected more than 5 million people in 19 countries across West and Central Africa. Severe floods across Pakistan beginning in June 2022 caused by above average monsoon rains and melting glaciers have killed more that 1,700 people and caused estimated damages of more that US $30 billion.
  • Wildfires – Since 2012, the US has averaged 49,303 wildfires per year, affecting 6,795,763 acres. So far in 2022, there have been 60,647 wildfires, affecting 7,227,371 acres. In Europe this past summer (June 4 – September 3), a prolonged heat wave and dry spell resulted in wildfires that burned a total of 508,260 hectares, compared with the 2006-2021 average of 215,548 hectares for the same summer period. And in Brazil, the National Institute for Space Research registered 31,513 fire alerts in the Amazon for the first 30 days of August, making it the worst August since 2010. 
  • Heatwaves – 2022 began with record heatwaves in the summer season in the southern hemisphere. Argentina experienced an historic heatwave that saw the country hit near record-high temperatures, which for a period made the country the hottest spot on the planet. This was followed by record heat waves in the summer in the northern hemisphere. NASA data indicated that the period from June to August 2022 tied with 2020 for the warmest summer worldwide since record keeping began in 1880.
  • Tropical Cyclones – The emerging scientific consensus is that global warming is likely not making tropical cyclones more frequent, but is increasing the intensity and strength of storms, resulting in greater damage. Rising ocean surface temperatures are increasing the strength of storms, and flooding caused by tropical cyclones is being made worse by rising sea levels.
  • Loss of glacial icescientists fear that a future is rapidly approaching where the more than 1 billion people who depend on glacial melt for water will be forced to find alternative sources of water. New satellite technology used to measure glacial depth indicates that glaciers may contain as much as 20 percent less water than previously thought. And as glaciers melt more rapidly, they can result in catastrophic flooding, rendering useless the water that they do contain, and further disrupting populations and agriculture.

How will we adapt to a rapidly changing climate

All of these issues post a range of serious challenges to global health, infrastructure, business and industry, the built environment, and perhaps most importantly, agriculture and food security. The adaptation requirements for each country vary based on the specific climate change related impact, whether droughts, flooding, tropical cyclones, or other climate change induced impacts.

The thematic day for Saturday November 12 was adaptation to climate change, with a particular focus on adaptive agriculture. The adaptation of agriculture value chains to climate change is an immensely important and yet complex topic, given the incredible variability of climes, agricultural systems, and topographies around the world. But at the root, all agriculture systems must adapt to provide populations with sufficient nutrition using increasingly scarce resources, primarily water.

What is Adaptive Agriculture?

The goal of adaptive agriculture is to help farmers focus on sustainable crops and growing methods that will deliver maximum nutritional value while addressing the impacts of climate change. A number of new initiatives focused on adaptive agriculture were introduced at COP27. The goal of these initiatives is to decrease food insecurity, protect the livelihoods of farmers, and generally build more resilience into global agriculture systems. Some of the areas that adaptive agriculture looks at include:

  • Soil quality and soil health – adaptive agriculture looks at crop mix, farming techniques, water use, and the use of additives in order to maintain the healthiest possible levels of soil.
  • Crop mix – the crops that are grown impact water consumption, adaptiveness of crops to temperature variations, impact of specific crops on soil (nutrient extraction), provision of nutrition, and overall sustainability to ensure that the most appropriate mix of crops are grown. In particular, this leads to a focus on native plant species, which are generally more resilient to variations in local weather patterns.
  • Water conservation – one of the most damaging – and unpredictable – elements of climate change is the impact on water supplies. Climate change is causing loss of seasonal ice melt, changes in rainfall patterns (extended periods of drought, and paradoxically, periods of intense rainfall), and loss of groundwater reserves.
  • Other agriculture inputs – adaptive agriculture seeks to minimize the need for other inputs, including fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. By focusing on organic farming techniques, the goal is to develop more resilient crop varieties that can better withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Business models – new technologies and approaches to agriculture – for example, greenhouse-based urban farms that use aquaponics to grow vegetables for local populations – reduce food waste, increase food security for local populations, minimize the impact on scarce resources, and help create employment opportunities. Adaptive agriculture encourages innovations in business models to deliver more sustainable agriculture systems, particularly for the poorest parts of the world.

Key initiatives discussed at the adaptive agriculture session

The theme day on Adaptation and Agriculture covered a range of topics and included the launch of several key initiatives intended to help countries deal with the threats that climate change poses to food security from disruptions to agriculture value chains. Some of the key topics and initiatives included the following:

FAST – Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation Initiative
This session featured the official launch of the COP27 FAST initiative, which aims to increase climate finance contributions for agriculture and food systems. The initiative aims to do this by targeting the most vulnerable countries.

iCAN – Initiative on Climate Action & Nutrition
This session featured discussions on developing a multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral initiative intended to help foster collaboration and accelerate transformative action while addressing the critical nexus of health, nutrition and climate change, and accelerating implementation in areas that reduce stunting, reduce wasting, reduce anemia among many other risks. The ultimate objective is to raise international awareness on malnutrition and urge state & non-state actors to act by pledging increased investment and support.

Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace (CRSP) Initiative Official Launch
The session evaluates the confluence of conflict, climate change, natural disasters, and environmental degradation, which pose a growing and pressing challenge, further spurring insecurity and vulnerability, as well as exacerbating existing fragilities across the globe.

“Shaping the way forward on Adaptation Action and Support”
A ministerial session on how to further capture progress on adaptation, including specific measures such as developing a comprehensive monitoring process, raising additional funds for adaptation initiatives, and support needed for NAPS development.

How to avert, minimize, and address Loss and Damage to infrastructure (Focus on Early Action and Early Warning Systems)
This session highlighted the role of Al and data analytics in early warning systems in reducing the aftermath of droughts and floods in countries exposed to climate change. Additionally, a key objective will be to raise additional funds for the development of EWS in developing countries.

Adaptation Technologies
Adaptation is in dire need for practical and implementable solutions and technologies that can be easily transferred to the developing world. From innovations around infectious diseases, to safeguarding against floods, insurance tools and capitalizing on progress in sensor technologies, this session will shed light on how technology can better serve us in adapting to climate change.

“From Malabo to Sharm ElSheikh”: Enhancing climate resilience and agriculture sustainability to attain food security in Africa
This session aims to shed light on the measures taken in African and Arab Countries since the 2014 Malabo Declaration which is considered a re-commitment to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) principles adopted by AU Heads of State and Government to provide effective leadership for the attainment of its goals by the year 2025, including ending hunger, tripling intra-African trade in agricultural goods and services, enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems, and ensuring that agriculture contributes significantly to poverty reduction.

Innovative tools by the private sector in Agriculture and Food Systems
The session aims to discuss the role of technological innovation within the domain of climate smart-agriculture and food initiatives with a focus on delivery of investment in innovative technologies through highlighting the role of the private sector and the multinational telecommunications companies in that sphere.

Finance for Climate Smart Agriculture and De-risking the Agriculture Sector
The session discussed ways of increasing investments for Climate Smart Agriculture and de-risking schemes of how to promote rural and agricultural finance, in order to find ways to increase affordable finance for smallholder farmers.

Food Security, Nutrition and Climate Change
The goal of the session was to discuss the current state of Food Security and Nutrition in developing countries, presenting key scientific findings; discussing methods of action and support; and scaling up cost-effective interventions and programs, and attracting additional funds for bilateral and multilateral initiatives.

In our next posting, we will discuss the challenges we are facing in meeting our targets for reducing greenhouse emissions and try to better understand some of the actions that have been proposed at COP27 to mitigate further releases of GHG into the atmosphere. Let us know your thoughts on any of the topics we’ve discussed, or anything else that has taken place at COP27.

Brent Barnette is a Non-Executive Director with ETK. He helps lead our focus on issues relating to sustainability, ESG reporting in Africa, and climate change.

If you’d like to discuss how ETK Group can help you achieve your climate change goals, please email us at