Key Messages

The world is witnessing the increasing impacts of climate change at an alarming rate. Wildfires, floods, cyclones, and heatwaves have become uncomfortably common today. Current research in climate sciences tells us that even if we were to completely stop producing greenhouse gases today, we would still face the detrimental impacts of climate change due to historical emissions. Additionally, the impacts of climate change are not felt in isolation. We are concurrently seeing the collapse of economic systems, wars, pandemics, and political instability, which heighten the impacts of climate change, making adaptation even more difficult.

Climate adaptation is best implemented when there is a scientifically grounded evidence base, such as climate risk assessments, to direct adaptation efforts. However, the complexity of adaptation is not reflected in any of the current risk assessment methods. Our mental models are seemingly still obedient to linear methods of thinking, which do not capture complex realities on the ground. To plug this gap, we have conceived a project titled ‘Modelling Complex Climate Change Risks to Systems’ to explore the complex dynamics between the drivers of risks. The project uses STELLA 3.0 (systems dynamics modelling software) to visualise the interplay between the drivers of risk for the agriculture production system at a national scale.

This working paper aims to set the context for our work, present our hypothesis to understand climate risks through a systems lens, and present an example of a causal loop diagram (CLD) created for the agriculture production system to highlight the difference between linear and systems thinking.