Will climate change be good for the UK’s agricultural industry?

Good news, climate-fearing reader! ‘Temperate regions of the world, including here in the UK, will find strong demand’ for produce in the face of climate change says George Eustice, British minister for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference in late February, the minister made the point that warmer temperatures coupled with water shortages elsewhere in the world would lead the UK to argi-prosperity. Post-climate-collapse Britain: the world’s breadbasket.

(If you haven’t sensed the facetiousness in my tone – trust me, it’s there!)

The story

Eustice is not wrong to claim that both the UK’s climate will warm and that water shortages will become a common problem worldwide. According to a paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the UK’s climate is projected to be 5c warmer by the end of the century and will receive up to 140mm less rainfall during the normal growing season of April to September.

Predicting climatic trends is no easy task. The climate is an infamously tricky beast of interconnected and unpredictable networks that hinges upon precise temperature variations and atmospheric conditions. Because of this, it is hard to predict with certainty how climate change will affect countries differently – a consensus can be drawn, however, in the how the changing climate will disproportionately ravage poorer nations, particularly those in the global south.

Changing climates across the globe could force previously arable nations to seek food production elsewhere – a gap in the market the UK could purportedly fill.

The future for Britain

The future of Britain’s climate is similarly hard to predict. The county’s agricultural sector employs over one million people and equates for 72% of all land use. An increase of 5c in the UK’s climate could potentially lead to much of the south and south east becoming ‘parched grassland’ in the summer months.

Without significant irrigation efforts, this could lead to parts of the country becoming unsuitable for farming for periods during the year. Far from ideal, but also far from the consequences facing countries like Nigeria in the South and even Germany northern Europe.

Final thoughts

Climate change is impossible to predict in its full nuance, so to insinuate that it might even become beneficial for the UK’s agricultural sector seems somewhat short sighted to say the least.

It is clear that for the UK – as well as many other countries worldwide – largescale change will be required across agricultural activities to combat the effects of climate change; in some fortunate cases this might even present the chance for innovation and profits to be made.

At Polestar, we have experience in working with a number of sustainability consultancy firms advising on a range of issues – if you have any questions, do get in contact.

By Rebecca Garland on 04/04/2022