How Climate Change Threatens UK Fruit & Veg

By Paul Homewood


There is yet another disgracefully scaremongering and dishonest climate change report out, as the “Independent” reports:




Britain’s chips are under threat as climate change triggers unpredictable weather and brings sweeping changes to the nation’s fruit and vegetable growers.

The potato snack was left an inch (2.5cm) shorter on average in 2018 after extreme heatwaves robbed them of much-needed water over the summer months.

This was one of the many changes catalogued in a new analysis by the Climate Coalition network and scientists at the University of Leeds.

They explored how rising global temperatures and associated extremes are likely to impact crop production and make British-grown produce harder to find.

Analysis conducted in the wake of last summer’s heatwaves by the Met Office found the event was made 30 times more likely by climate change.

Potato yields were slashed by a fifth in England and Wales in 2018, while carrot production fell by up to 30 per cent and onions by 40 per cent.

At the other end of the weather spectrum, more than half of UK farmers reported being affected by severe flooding or storms over the past 10 years.

The intensity of winter rainfall has gradually been creeping up in recent decades, as the changing climate tampers with weather systems and increases the chances of major downpours….


At current rates, the amount of land that is well-suited to growing potatoes could decline by three quarters by the middle of the century, according to projections.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at coalition member WWF, said: “To be able to enjoy our mash, chips or jackets for years to come, we need to take measures to tackle climate change urgently.”

“If we don’t, then the impact on both growers and consumers is just one of the ways our lives will change in a world of climate breakdown.”

Farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of climate change, with the NFU announcing at a recent conference that UK agriculture would

The government has pledged to reward farmers who help cut emissions and protect the environment under its new agriculture scheme.

“High-quality, locally-grown fruit and veg are a crucial component of British diets,” said environment secretary Michael Gove.

“Yet, as we saw with last year’s drought, this nutritious food, and the livelihoods of the hard-working farmers who grow it, are increasingly threatened by more extreme weather and increased pests and diseases as a result of climate change.”

However, while the UK has achieved impressive cuts of around two fifths of its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990s, it is current not on track to meet its future targets as sectors such as transport continue to lag behind.


This is the report quoted:



It is written by the Climate Coalition, a grouping of many of the usual suspects, a

long with the Priestly International Centre for Climate:



And was warmly welcomed by Michael Gove, who has now plainly lost the plot completely.


In classic alarmist fashion, it takes a few weather events and calls them climate. It even has the nerve to claim:

More than half of all farms in the UK say they have been affected by a severe climatic event, such as flooding or a storm in the past 10 years.

Floods and storms are weather events, not climate, as any honest scientist would admit.

But let’s start by looking at their specific claims of how our fruit and veg are threatened:



1) The 2018 summer heatwave was made about 30 times more likely than it would be normally by climate change.

This claim originated from the Met Office last summer, and is utterly mendacious.

The simple facts are that, given the weather we had – almost continuous high pressure and sunshine, it was inevitably going to be an extremely hot summer, global warming or not, even if it ended up slightly hotter than it may otherwise have been.

No evidence has been provided that such weather patterns have become more common because of climate change.



2) New analysis released by The Climate Coalition and the Priestley International Centre for Climate says the UK can expect more frequent extreme weather events, including longer-lasting and more intense heatwaves and a one in three chance of record-breaking rainfall hitting parts of England each winter

Projections of longer lasting and more intense heatwaves are not borne out by historical data, which show that no summer since has matched the heat of 1976, and that the summer of 2018 was the first “hot” summer since 2006.

Such summers are still, in other words, a rarity.

UK Mean daily maximum temp - Summer

As for “record winter rainfall in England”, the only unusually wet winter in recent years was, of course, 2013/14. Yet that was barely wetter than in 1914/15. Both, needless to say, were exceptional weather events, and not climatic events.

Otherwise, long term trends show absolutely no evidence that winters are getting wetter in England, or more extreme.

England Rainfall - Winter



3) The climate extremes of the past few years—including the snowfall and freezing temperatures of February and March 2018 —have been devastating for UK fruit and vegetable farmers.

I’m not sure how they have the nerve to claim that cold winters are due to global warming. But, unfortunately, the facts show that cold Februaries and Marchs are not only common occurrences, but used to be much colder in the past.

UK Mean temperature - February

UK Mean temperature - March



4) The climate extremes of the past few years- one of the driest June months in England and Wales since 1910—have been devastating for UK fruit and vegetable farmers.

In fact, extremely dry Junes tended to be more common in the past. The driest on record was in 1925.

As the graph shows, Junes with less than 20mm of rain come along roughly once a decade on average. Last year was the first since 1995.

England Rainfall - June



5) Apple growers lost around 25% of their harvest in 2017 due to unexpectedly late frosts

Again, they try to pin cold weather on global warming!

The frost concerned were in April, but the data shows much colder Aprils were the norm prior to the 1990s.

England Mean daily minimum temp - April

The quote about apples comes from a DEFRA report, which shows that production of fruit in 2017, though down on the previous year, was still significantly higher than 2007 to 2013:


In reality, as any farmer would admit, weather is rarely perfect all year round, and production always has ups and downs.

Harvests in 2015 and 2016 were unusually high, so a drop back to more normal levels was inevitable sooner or later.

Meanwhile, early reports suggest that last year’s apple harvest was another bumper year, thanks to the scorching summer weather.

And not only apples. As the Guardian reported last October, English winemakers were raising a glass to a bumper harvest on course to be the best in history in terms of both quality and quantity, after a long, hot summer provided unparalleled conditions for viticulture.



6) Carrot yields (down a reported 25-30%) and onion yields (reportedly down 40% on a normal year) were hampered in 2018 by warmer than average temperatures.

There is no evidence that carrot or onion yields are affected by warmer temperatures. On the contrary, it is lack of rainfall which affects yields.

In the UK, of course, hot summers go hand in hand with dry ones, both the result of stable, anti-cyclonic weather with plenty of sunshine.

And, as that inconvenient Met Office keeps illustrating, last summer was not exceptionally dry. Such summers occur about every decade on average, but last summer was the first really dry one since 1995.

If anything, summers are trending slightly wetter.

England Rainfall - Summer

Again, we need to go back to that DEFRA report, which shows no trend in vegetable production between 2007 and 2017:




7) Potato yields were down on average 20% in England and Wales in 2018 compared to the previous season, making it the fourth smallest harvest since 1960.

This is possibly one of the most outrageously dishonest claims.

As well as the factors already mentioned with regard to carrots and onions, there is one thing which the report omits to mention – the fact that much less land is used for potatoes these days.

FAOSTAT tells the real story, that the authors of this report don’t want you to know:


As the graph above shows, area harvested for potatoes is now less than half than in the 1960s.

When we look at yields, below, we see that these have more than doubled, despite the supposed calamities posed by climate change. Yield data is not available for 2018 yet, but no doubt it will have fallen sharply, just as it did in previous dry summers, such as 1975, 1976 and 1995.

But it is also significant that the biggest drop of all was during the wet summer of 2012, reminding us that rainfall, whether too little or too much, is what really matters.


But to imply that potato harvests last year are amongst the lowest since 1960 because of climate change is quite simply fraudulent, when the real reason is the reduction in area planted.



Long Term Trends

To get a proper perspective, rather than the politicised message from the ridiculous Climate Coalition report, we need to look at the actual data from FAOSTAT.

Again, the figures only go to 2017, but both fruit and vegetable show sizeable increases in yields since the 1960s, despite climate change. In particular, fruit yields have rocketed in the last decade.



This may be due to all sorts of reasons. But the allegation that British growers have been “hard hit” by extreme weather and climate change is self evidently unadulterated bullshit.



Priestley International Centre

There is a side story to all of this nonsense.

The Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, which helped to write and is evidently the driving force behind this piece of highly politicised junk science, is none other than Piers Forster.

And Forster just so happens to be the latest recruit to Gummer’s Committee on Climate Change, appointed two months ago.


This is the level of integrity and expertise around which the Committee on Climate Change is based, and on which in turn government policy is based.

Nothing better could sum up why the CCC should be abolished without delay.


February 5, 2019 at 04:15PM

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