Climate change to put farming sectors under stress

By Paul Homewood


The latest climate boogeyman from the Met Office propaganda department:




A new study by the Met Office gives examples of how two of the UK’s most important farming sectors are likely to be impacted by climate change.

The study – published in Climate Risk Management – examines the effect of climate change on the dairy and potato farming sectors over the next thirty to fifty years.

The research found that heat stress in dairy cattle is projected to increase significantly in key dairy regions of the UK, particularly South Western England. The study also covered the climate change impacts on the potato sector due to late blight, a disease affecting potato crops which occurs in warm, humid weather.

Dr Freya Garry is the author of the study. She said: “Projections show potential for major climate change impacts on UK farming. Our study found that future dairy cattle in parts of the South East may be exposed to heat stress for an extra two months per year. At the moment, cattle in the South East experience around a week per year of these stressful conditions.”

The UK region with the largest herd of dairy cattle is the South West, where there are around 750,000 dairy cattle (according to the latest figures from Defra). The study shows that heat stress conditions are met around two-to-three days per year, but in the period 2051-2070, this could extend to around one month per year on average.

The study is based on a climate projection known as RCP 8.5: a high emissions future. The pathway is credible as mitigation efforts to achieve the more drastic greenhouse gas emissions representative of other pathways can’t be guaranteed. Dr Garry added: “Given the potentially serious consequences for UK farming, we felt it was appropriate to work with a high impact scenario. Even under lower emission pathways, we know that our climate will continue to change so even if the impacts are smaller than identified in this study, our study provides useful information for adaptation planning.”

In the future climate of 30-50 years’ time, late blight (a disease affecting potato crops which occurs in warm, humid weather) is likely to occur more often across the UK, with the greatest increases in western and northern regions. In east Scotland, a region which currently has a high concentration of potato farming, potato blight may occur around 70 % more often. Most potatoes are grown in the east of the UK, where potato blight occurs less often, and so there are likely to be smaller increases of 20-30 % in key regions for potato growing in England compared to today.

Both food for cattle, crops for humans, and potato growing will all be threatened by increased drought in the future, which we tend to experience when we have particularly hot dry summers, such as 2018. Last year, another group of scientists from the Met Office demonstrated that the summer temperatures of 2018 may occur every one in two years by the middle of the century. In this work, the scientists also look at how often we are likely to see both hot and dry months during summers through the twenty-first century, and how this is likely to increase.


The study is worthless, given that it is based around RCP 8.5, the high emissions scenario which projects a rise in temperature by 2100 of 5 to 6C. Most serious scientists regard this as being a preposterous projection which will never happen.

The study revolves around two assumptions:

1) There will be more hot days, which will stress cattle

2) Summers will be wetter, causing potato blight.



Taking the first claim, the data shows that hot summers are still the exception. Since 2006, only the summer of 2018 stands out, and even that was much cooler than 1976:





If heat stress was such a problem, then dairy farming would hardly be thriving in the South West, or for that matter Jersey. Instead it would surely be confined to cooler latitudes. I suspect that freezing cold winters are just as stressful for cattle.

Meanwhile, according to DEFRA, milk yields have been rising steadily since 1975, hardly a sign of heat stress:




Then we come onto potato blight, which thrives in wet summers. Blight is of course a perennial problem, and was the cause of the Irish famine in 1845. Farmers have long learnt to adapt and live with blight.

The Met Office data however indicates that English summers are not getting wetter, or for that matter drier:



It should of course be pointed out that drought is just as much of a problem for potato harvest as blight is.

Potato yields in Britain fell sharply during the wet summer of 2012, and again in the dry summer of 2018. Otherwise however yields in the last decade have been much higher than pre 1990:





No doubt if global temperatures rise by 6C farmers will have to learn to adapt, just as they would if there was a nuclear winter or an asteroid hitting the Earth.

But perhaps in future the taxpayer funded Met Office ought to focus on more mundane matters, such as getting accurate long term forecasts, which might actually benefit the farmers of today.


March 21, 2021 at 06:54AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s