Farming's role in a changed climate
FARMING organisations have welcomed a new Government report into the impacts of climate change will help improve farming’s understanding of how agriculture can be part of the solution to a major problem.
They were responding to today’s launch of the first Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) which looked at the risks and opportunities from the impacts of current and future climate change to the UK, on a number of specific sectors including agriculture.
CLA president Harry Cotterell said it was a ‘crucial and welcome first attempt’ to highlight the risks for farmers and foresters.
“Meeting these challenges will require new management skills with support from better technology and clear guidance to allow forestry and agri-businesses to adapt to climate change more effectively.”
He said the land management sector could make a big contribution towards adapting to climate change.
“Growing food crops that are more resistant to disease and drought and changing land management practices to allow more water and carbon storage in soils would all make a huge difference.
“Planning ahead and planting the right tree species in the right places would provide biodiversity corridors and shade, store carbon and buffer the impact of flooding.
NFU climate change adviser Dr Ceris Jones said: “The report will help us improve our understanding of some of the risks and opportunities ahead so we can better respond to what the climate might throw at us.”
Dr Jones said they agreed with the assessment that climate risks were only one aspect influencing the decisions made by farmers, and the way UK agriculture adapted and responded must recognise the complexity of targets and expectations placed upon food production now and in the future.
Launching the report, Defra Secretary Caroline Spelman said it provided the most comprehensive case yet why action should be taken to adapt the UK and the economy to the impacts of climate change.
Lord John Krebs, part of the Committee on Climate Change, added: “Without an effective plan to prepare for the risks from climate change the country may sleepwalk into disaster.”
The report will be used to develop a National Adaptation Programme which will set out timescales for Government actions to meet the challenges of climate change.
Among the key points, the report suggested:
- Agricultural systems are vulnerable to changes in climate and are among the first to feel the effects.
- In the short term warmer temperatures and CO2 fertilisation may present some opportunities to improve yields and introduce new croput these benefits may be limited by low water availability which is already being experienced in drier parts of the UK.
- That changes in other factors like CAP reform are likely to have much greater influence than average climate conditions