Extreme Weather: A Storm of Trouble for Supply Chains

Extreme Weather: A Storm of Trouble for Supply Chains

Supply chain disruptions -- as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic -- will become more common as climate change worsens, experts predict. The culprit? Extreme weather made more frequent by rising temperatures.

This means suppliers and growers must be proactive in the face of extreme weather. Jason Jay, the director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT's Sloan School of Management, told Bloomberg that the first step for companies looking to protect their operations is to understand the climate risks at every step of their supply chain. Jay warns, we are not bracing against "the next big supply chain crisis. It's the next big supply chain crises, plural."

Why It Matters

Even small disruptions in the supply chain can mean serious ripple effects downstream. Especially in fragile sectors like agriculture, where floods and high temperatures can destroy a season's crop. Over time, small, consistent disruptions can threaten the availability of particular commodities, like coffee, which will become harder and harder to farm on a warming planet.

The Last Cup of Joe?

In the coffee industry, engineers are looking to prevent supply crises by reinventing the bean itself. As the cost of the crop hit a ten-year-high last month, experts warn its growth is threatened by high temperatures, prompting researchers to examine how to genetically engineer a plant that has been mostly left alone since 1967.

While developing more resilient crop varieties used to take more than a decade, CRISPR gene-editing technology has turned this timeline on its head. Now start-ups, like UK-based Tropic Biosciences, are racing to produce new varieties, with a focus on those that could survive hot, dry weather.

CNBC: How climate change is impacting global supply chains, August 19, 2021.