Climate change ‘is already affecting Britain’s economy’, experts warn

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Cows in a Pasture with a Wind Farm in Background on an overcast spring day
Climate change is already having an impact on Britain's farming sector. (Getty)

Climate change is already affecting Britain’s farming industry, experts have warned - and it’s set to get worse in coming decades. 

Flooding and droughts have already impacted farming in Britain, says Martin Lukac, professor of ecosystem science at the University of Reading.

Professor Lukac told CNBC that British farmers were already feeling the impact of extreme weather events. 

Lukac said: “In areas where a lack of grass biomass to feed the cattle had never been an issue, all of a sudden, this was on everyone’s agenda, because there was no pasture to be had.”

Read more: A 1988 warning about climate change was mostly right

He also warned that British farmers will feel the impact of shortages around the world. 

“Agriculture has become globally integrated," said Lukac. “For example, a failure of yield in Brazil will be felt by the UK livestock industry, because we buy soya from Brazil and feed it to the cows in Britain.”

A combine harvester crops soybeans in a field at Salto do Jacui, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on April 7, 2021. - Rio Grande do Sul is the third-largest state producer of grain in the country, which is the world's largest producer of soy. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, production should reach a new record, estimated at 135.5 million tons, approximately 8.6% more tons than the 2019/20 harvest. (Photo by SILVIO AVILA / AFP) (Photo by SILVIO AVILA/AFP via Getty Images)
A combine harvester crops soybeans in a field at Salto do Jacui, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. (AFP via Getty Images)

A report last year by the Committee on Climate Change warned that an ‘urgent’ overhaul of Britain’s agricultural sector will be needed to meet Britain’s target of achieving net zero by 2050. 

This month’s UN climate change report warned that extreme weather events like heatwaves and droughts which previously would have happened every 50 years could soon happen every four. 

Read more: Why economists worry that reversing climate change is hopeless

The report points out that Europe is already seeing the effects of climate change, with extreme droughts affecting the Mediterranean region. 

But in the coming years, the report predicts that events such as this summer’s flooding in Germany, and wildfires in Greece, could continue, or get worse.

The report predicts, with high confidence, that droughts and ‘fire weather’ in the Mediterranean region will continue.

TOPSHOT - An aerial view taken on August 19, 2021 shows a destroyed railway track during clearing work in Altenahr, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, weeks after heavy rain and floods caused major damage in the Ahr region. - Deadly floods in mid-July washed away homes, businesses and critical infrastructure, with the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia worst hit. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Heavy rain and floods caused major damage in Altenahr, Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany, earlier this year. (AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile in northern Europe, river flooding will get worse. 

Both of these have been caused by human contribution to climate change, the researchers believe. 

Snow and ice in the Alps will decrease below elevations of 1500m throughout the 21st century, and glacier ice will retreat in the Alps and Scandinavia. 

The report found that (for example) once-in-a-decade heavy rain events are already 1.3 times more likely and 6.7% wetter, compared with the 50 years leading up to 1900 when human-driven warning began to occur. 

EVIA ISLAND, GREECE - 2021/08/19: View of burnt pine tree forest on the mountain side near Dafni.
The aftermath of the wildfires in the northern part of the Greek island of Evia (Euboea ) where fire kept burning almost for 10 days, burning forest and buildings. Almost 100,000 hectares of forest burned in Greek fires according to Copernicus European Emergency Services. (Photo by Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A burnt-out pine tree forest on the mountainside near Dafni on the island of Evia, Greece. (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Droughts that previously happened once a decade now happen every five or six years. 

Xuebin Zhang, a climatologist with Environment Canada in Toronto warned that as the world warms, such extreme weather events will not just become more frequent, they will become more severe.

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Zhang said that the world should also expect more compound events, such as heat waves and long-term droughts occurring simultaneously.

“We are not going to be hit just by one thing, we are going to be hit by multiple things at the same time," Zhang added.

Watch: Greta Thunberg says that Scotland is not a climate change leader

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