Adaptation Toolbox Diagram Step 1: Getting Started Step 2: How resilient am I to climate? Step 3: How will Climate Change affect me? Step 4: What should I do? Step 5: Keeping it real Resources Glossary

Step 3: How Will Climate Change Affect Me?

In Step 2 you collected information on how you are affected by the climate and weather. In Step 3 you will collect information about how climate change might affect you in the future. You will identify your climate change risks, compare other risks affecting you and identify your priority climate responses. The results will be shaped by your own experiences and knowledge.

For a number of reasons:

  • Weather and climate already affect your business, directly and indirectly (for example, supplies or transport). Climate projections show that the future is not the same as the past. Current management techniques and old rules of thumb may no longer work as well.
  • Avoiding future cost. Waiting for further change may have a higher cost than acting now, particularly decisions with long-term consequences (decades or longer). For instance, land-use, infrastructure, such as irrigation or drainage systems, and any other built assets such as water storage areas or effluent ponds.
  • Taking advantage of any business opportunities. Effects may be positive as well as negative from climate change. You may be able to take advantage of moving early to adapt to climate change, for instance, using new cultivars or altering breeding programmes.
  • Contingency and emergency planning. You may need to change the ways you manage floods and droughts in the longer term, including financial management and contingency planning.
  • Maintaining business continuity. Meeting supply contracts, mortgage repayments and being able to draw a wage are all necessary to stay in business over the long term, which means anticipating future changes and responding.

Over the coming century expect:

  • Average air temperatures to increase;
  • Annual average rainfall to increase in the west and south but decrease in the east and north;
  • Sea levels to rise.

As well as changes in average climate, changes in weather extremes are also expected. Some weather extremes (such as very hot days and more intense rainfall) may become more common. Others, such as snowfall, may become less common. Extreme events are by definition rare, but they often have the most significant impacts. Additionally, climate extremes such as sustained drought may become more common. Unfortunately, extreme events are also difficult to predict, so information on future weather and climate extremes is less certain than average conditions.

Task 3.1
Find out about the expected changes in New Zealand’s climate over the 21st century.
Task 3.2
Look at how climate and the weather has affected you in the past (Task 2.2) and see how this might change in future, including how the frequency or intensity of the weather might change.

The effects of climate change will be specific to your area but you can get an idea of the impacts from a variety of places. Before starting, check whether any assessments have already been done by industry associations, professional bodies, local or central government. This may give you a head start and help your assessment. MAF has produced a set of fact sheets and case studies by sector and by topic on climate change that outlines key impacts in regions and sectors.

Working with others in your business or local area could help build a good picture of what the impacts might mean for your business. Adapting to climate change means reducing future problems and taking advantage of any opportunities.

Climate change could mean:

  • warmer temperatures and high trans-evaporation rates
  • more growing degree days
  • less frosts
  • earlier bud break
  • the timing and nature of seasons changing i.e. seasons may be wetter or drier than now
  • pastures with different grass species and nutritional values that need managing
  • the distribution of weeds and diseases changing e.g. kikuyu and facial eczema moving further south
  • life cycles of pest species changing i.e. less frosts with increased over wintering
  • more and different commercial species becoming available in your area e.g. maize being commercially grown further south
  • an increased need for more stock management options for hotter days occurring more often
  • increased erosion rates, flooding and droughts
  • the performance of infrastructure may change under future conditions, including water storage management, effluent disposal ponds, drainage systems, irrigation and flood control
  • impacts on production and income

If no relevant work has been done for your area or sector, or you need more specific information, you should carry out a simple assessment to identify potential climate impacts. This section will help you to do this with your own experience and knowledge. If this initial assessment shows that climate change could have significant impacts, you might want to undertake a more thorough scoping assessment.

Indirect effects also need to be considered For example:

  • Floods and storms making access to your property difficult, which could affect milk collection, feed supply or labour contractors;
  • climate change might affect other parts of the country differently from your property, in turn affecting product, feed and seed demand or supply in your area
  • physical effects on processing plants from climate change, including more intense rainfall patterns affecting plant operations, as well as changing demand on the processing facilities
  • customer demand for your goods or services may change;
  • new opportunities or markets may emerge
  • insurance companies and banks may change policies on extreme weather and climate change
  • the effect of climate change in other countries may affect export demand or import supply
Task 3.3: Identify potential climate impacts using Table 3.2. and steps 3.3.1-3.3.5 below

Task 3.3.1
List key climate change factors that affect your business, including timing, and enter these into the first column of your table. Use the table in Step 2 to make sure you have all the climate variables that affect you, as well as those that might change in future. The climate variables here can help identify those relevant to you.

Task 3.3.2
Find out how climate variables are likely to change in future. Note that different levels of certainty can be placed on different projections. More certainty can be placed in temperature projections, for instance, than rainfall. Projections of average changes are more certain than extremes.

For initial or ‘back of the envelope’ assessments, look at the headline changes only, namely:

  • New Zealand is likely to continue to get warmer;
  • Annual average rainfall is likely to increase in the west and south and decrease in the east and north;
  • Some weather extremes such as droughts, floods and storms, may become more common, other less common; and
  • Sea levels are likely to rise.

Task 3.3.3
Identify what in your business could be affected; consider the location, extent and timing. Think about the length of time or season. Some actions, such as investing in forestry, have a long lifetime (decades or more) and are more likely to be affected by climate change. For shorter term decisions (a few years or less), use recent climate records or past extreme weather events to understand the impacts. Bear in mind the specific location, production cycle and season.

Task 3.3.4
Will climate change make things better or worse? Identify positive and negative impacts from changes in climate and weather that might lead to likely future problems and opportunities. If possible, identify any costs, savings or income.

Task 3.3.5
Consider if any critical thresholds like temperatures for bud break are crossed more or less often, or if the thresholds themselves change.

Once you have identified the likely positive and negative impacts on your business, you need to understand the risk of those impacts. This involves assessing: (i) the probability, or likelihood, of the impact occurring and (ii) the magnitude, or consequence, of the impact should it occur.

risk = the probability of an impact x the consequence of the impact.

Impacts that are highly likely to occur and have serious consequences are high risk, whereas an impact that is unlikely to happen and doesn’t have serious consequence is a low risk. Most often risks are already managed and it may be a case of just reviewing your management. For instance, heavy rain trapping pregnant stock in back country areas could be a high risk in some areas but can be managed by listening to weather forecasts, keeping pregnant stock in paddocks with better access, and moving stock before heavy rainfall is expected.

This section shows you how to do a simplified risk assessment. Understanding the risk will help you make decisions on how to manage climate change. Consider the timescales that impacts will occur - some impacts might become smaller over time, while others might increase. There are several ways to assess risk, ranging from using a simple table to more complex risk methodologies. How you assess risk will depend on what is at stake, for instance, a major investment could require more in-depth analysis, including cost benefit work. Assess your risk without any current management actions but note them down.

A risk table allows you to categorise, or rate, the risk by the likelihood and consequences (results). The risk table below shows that for a rare event with trivial consequences, the risk is low. On the other hand, an event that is almost certain and severe is rated as an extreme risk.

Task 3.4:
Assess the risk (likelihood and consequence) of each climate change effect listed in Table 3.2
  • For each impact, rate the risk by looking at the likelihood and size of the consequence based on the expected climate changes.
    • To start with think about what likelihood means to you so that you can rank each effect consistently. You could use a range of words to describe the likelihood from “almost certain” to “rare”. For instance, “almost certain” could mean that something has happened before and is expected to happen again in the next 12 months. “Rare” could mean although something has not happened before in your experience, it is in the realms of possibility. Do not include things that have no chance of occurring because there is no way (or mechanism) for it to possibly occur.
      Keep in mind that a “1 in 100” year event means that there is a 1% chance of the event occurring in a single year and not that the event only occurs once every 100 years. Over a 50 year period a 1% chance in a year translates into a 40% chance or between a 1 in 2 and a 1 in 3 chance of the event occurring or being exceeded.
    • Think about what consequences mean to you; try using a five step range for the expected magnitude from ‘trivial’ to ‘severe’. For instance, ‘trivial’ could mean the results have very little or no cost and only some inconvenience, whereas ‘severe’ could mean financial viability over the long term is compromised, a major loss in production could occur in successive years or a loss of life.
    • You can also change the definitions of the level of risk or the combinations (for example from low to medium for a rare or minor effect) to better suit your business. In general, risk get higher as you move from the bottom left to the top right.
    • Work through your list or table in task 3.4 describing the likelihood and consequences of each climate change effect and using the table to see what the level of risk might be (low, medium, high or extreme). If possible, estimate the costs of particular impacts. This information could be important in considering your risks and adaptation options.
    • Alternatively you could assign a number value to the magnitude and the likelihood x Determine the size of the risk by multiplying the likelihood of impact by the magnitude of consequence for each impact. Enter this value into the table you prepared earlier.

The matrix ranks the relative consequences for the different elements in table 3.2 from trivial to severe. You will need to describe the magnitude of effect, eg what would be a minor versus a major financial impact on your organisation? For instance, a trivial effect on water could be an insignificant change in water availability whereas a severe effect could be no water.

Climate change is only one risk and it is worth considering how that risk compares with other risks, such as financial, reputational or market. The relative importance of risks will change over time. For example,

  • An outbreak of foot and mouth or Tb will change priorities in the short term, but once that outbreak is over, climate risks may assume greater importance, for instance, an increased likelihood of drought.
  • A broken water pump will change the priorities of an irrigation scheme manager, but once repaired, other risks, such as low water storage levels or more efficient water use will become more important.
  • A business may have short term financial difficulties that are of more immediate concern than future climate change, but these priorities may change over time, if climate change affects your financial viability in the long term.

Also consider existing trends that might affect your operations, e.g. in the product or labour market, or changing technologies. The relative importance of the risks may need to be regularly assessed.

Task 3.5 Draw up a list, or table, of other risks affecting your business.
  • List the key risks affecting you or your business, noting how you already manage that risk, for instance business continuity planning or using professional advice when specialist skills are required.
  • Consider using a risk table or list to help rank and compare risks, including climate change.
  • Think about if there are any uncertainties, whether you know enough or need more information.
  • The checklist of risk categories may help you to think about the full range of risks you face (e.g. reputational, financial).
  • The significance of other risks may change over time. So, alongside climate change scenarios, you should consider how these other risks may alter in the future.

Having completed Steps 3.1 - 3.5, you can now identify your priority climate risks by considering:

  • the work you have done in Task 3.4;
  • risk ratings in task 3.5;
  • other risks that you face already;
  • if current risk management techniques can be used or changed
  • risks that will increase more rapidly due to climate change, especially if they cross some critical threshold;
  • risks where it will take some time to plan and implement your adaptation response;
  • contingency planning;
  • win-win solutions where there are other benefits, such as cost or time savings
Task 3.6 Identify the most significant risks from the table developed in Steps 3.4 and 3.5 to help you prioritise.

You can do this by listing and ranking the most significant problems and opportunities, or by highlighting the high and low priority risks in different colours.

When identifying priority risks, think about your attitude to risk (refer to Step 2.1), available resources, how you already manage the risk, and the time horizon of the climate risks.

Step 3 Checklist

After working through this Step you will have:

  • an understanding of how New Zealand's climate is expected to change
  • identified key climate impacts in your area and to your business
  • understood your climate risk, and its importance in relation to other risks
  • identified priority climate risks that require action
  • an awareness of uncertainties associated with the information you are using
  • recorded your answers and discussions

Step 3 Tasks

Task 3.1: Find out about the expected changes in New Zealand’s climate over the 21st century.

Task 3.2: Look at how climate and the weather has affected you in the past (Task 2.2) and see how this might change in future, including how the frequency or intensity of the weather might change.

Task 3.3: Identify potential climate impacts using Table 3.2 and steps 3.3.1-3.3.5 below
Task 3.3.1 List key climate change factors
Task 3.3.2: Find out how climate variables are likely to change
Task 3.3.3: Identify what in your business could be affected
Task 3.3.4: Identify positive and negative impacts
Task 3.3.5: Consider critical thresholds

Task 3.4: Assess the risk (likelihood and consequence) of each climate change effect listed in Table 3.2.

Task 3.5: Draw up a list, or table, of other risks affecting your business.

Task 3.6: Identify the most significant risks from the table developed in Step 3.4 and 3.5 to help you prioritise.


Last Updated: 29 January 2013

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