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Climate risk assessment

All four dimensions of food security and nutrition are affected by climate change and climate variability: food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability. The risks of climate change on agricultural production trickle down to additional risks to the food security and nutrition of people who are directly dependent on agriculture for their food and livelihoods. Climate variability and extreme weather events, which are intensified and more recurrent under climate change, introduce additional challenges. Extreme weather presents an even bigger threat when vulnerability is increased as a result of economic and heath crises, particularly where compounded risks are already a reality. 

Understanding and quantifying climate risk is at the core of actions required to substantially reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and achieve sustainable and resilient food and agricultural systems. Screening and assessment of climate risks at the earliest stages of project design allows fundamental decisions to be made for more climate-resilient outcomes of investments. 

What we do

Mainstreaming climate risks into climate finance
Mainstreaming climate risks into agricultural policies


Mainstreaming climate risks into climate finance

FAO is working towards integrating climate risks throughout all stages of investment project cycles, including project design, appraisals and monitoring and evaluation of climate-related project results.

An important element to support transformational changes is building robust evidence about past and future climate risks and vulnerabilities, and identification and appraisal of adaptation practices. Designing transformational adaptation requires a robust climate rationale – information on climate risks and vulnerabilities of the agro-ecosystem. The climate rationale (evidence) at the local scale justifies the choice of adaptation options, and investments on adaptation interventions at the project level. Evidence at a larger spatial scale (sub-national to national) forms the basis for adaptation planning and policies at the national level.

It is estimated that proactive, anticipatory action such as early warning systems for food and agriculture can save lives and assets that are worth at least ten times their costs. According to WRI (2019), the investment of US$1.8 trillion in a range of adaptation approaches (strengthening early warning systems, making new infrastructure resilient, improving dryland agriculture and crop production, making water resources management more resilient and global mangrove protection) could generate up to US$7.1 trillion in savings.  

Climate-smart and climate-resilient agriculture promote mitigation and adaptation in the sector in support of achieving food security for all. A number of farm- to community-scale projects have already demonstrated farming practices that are better suited to changing climate conditions. It is imperative to scale up climate-resilient actions from project to regional and national level actions, while recognizing best practices in one area may not be directly applicable to a neighboring area or larger surrounding areas due to their location- and context-specificity. In order to support scaling-up of climate-resilient agriculture, climate finance should be made available, which meets the needs of a broad range of agricultural value chain actors that are involved from the farm to the final consumer. 

New climate risk screening tool

FAO's climate risk screening tool helps ensure that short- and long-term risks posed by climate change and other natural hazards are considered systematically in the screening, assessment and planning processes of projects and programmes.

Click here for more details on the screening process.

Mainstreaming climate risks into agricultural policies

Climate science has moved forward rapidly in the last decade, providing more nuanced insights into the future of agricultural production, and societal and environmental risks associated with climate impacts on agriculture and food security. While there is still great uncertainty about many aspects of the Earth's carbon cycle, particularly when it comes to natural sinks like forests or the ocean, advances in climate science now provide greater certainty of changes we are already witnessing, and greater confidence in the projections derived from climate models. 

Information on the impacts of climate change is a primary resource for policy makers trying to cope with climate change. Forecasting is the basic element of all warning systems and adaptation policies that must be applied to four aspects of food security (availability, stability, access and biological utilization), which allows decision-makers enough time to react to warnings with the highest possible degree of reliability (the more long-term the forecasts the less reliable and detailed they are). 

Climate change impacts and adaptation responses in the agriculture sectors impact different people in different ways depending on the cultural, economic, environmental and social context in which they live. National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) provide an opportunity to ensure adaptation efforts are more responsive to the needs, interests and challenges of different women and men in the agriculture sectors.

FAO addresses gender in vulnerability and risk assessments for gender-responsive adaptation projects and programmes. Vulnerability and risk assessments that are designed and conducted using a gender perspective may give a more accurate picture of the kinds of resiliencies and vulnerabilities that men and women experience in a given context depending on other factors (e.g. age, ethnicity, class, caste, etc.). Further, the inclusion of socio-economic criteria in the evaluation of adaptation options and the encouragement of participation by different stakeholders can contribute to the selection of adaptation options that are optimal for different groups of people.