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Climate Change could cost Irish Agriculture up to €2 billion

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013 12:55

Climate Change could cost Irish Agriculture up to €2 billion

Ireland's agriculture sector will face losses of up to €2 billion per annum if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked. That's according to new research commissioned by the Stop Climate Chaos coalition on the projected economic impacts of climate change on Irish agriculture over the next 40 years. The research,[pdf, 361kB] published (24.10.13), was carried out by Dr. Stephen Flood at NUI Maynooth.

It shows agriculture is one of the most climate-sensitive industries in Ireland, because its primary outdoor production processes depend on particular levels of temperature and rainfall. If current levels of climate change continue, winter rainfall will increase by up to 17 per cent by the 2080s, while summer rainfall will decrease by up to 25 per cent, with the largest reductions in the southern and eastern coastal areas.

These changes, according to the research, will result in more variable weather - including incidents of drought, flooding, heavy rainfall and extreme temperatures - which will, in turn, lead to changes in the range and prevalence of agricultural pests and diseases, increased stress factors for animals, changes in water availability and crop yields, and difficulties in providing sufficient resources for animals during certain periods.

Opportunities for Irish Farmers
The research also points to potential opportunities for Irish farmers arising from climate change: wheat and beet yields are projected to increase significantly by the middle of this century, and the outlook for Irish grain exports is promising, as other regions of Europe - for example, around Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia - are expected to experience significant decreases in crop yields, due to increasing water shortages.

Commenting today, Niamh Garvey, spokesperson for SCC, said Ireland must act now to respond to climate change in a proactive manner, and to ensure our agriculture sector continues to thrive in the coming years.

"Adapting existing agricultural practices to take account of future climate change impacts is a prudent strategy," she said. "Potential adaptation actions include increasing crop diversity and varieties, altering planting and harvesting dates, planning for and implementing water supply management strategies, and supporting research to identify crops that can grow more successfully in the next 10 to 20 years, taking into account the expected changes in climate and growing seasons.

"Even more important than adaptation, of course, is mitigation. Rather than just accepting climate change, we must also continue to work to limit it. In this respect, we look forward to a robust climate law being introduced by government over the coming months, with clearly identified targets for emissions reductions and provision for a properly independent committee to oversee progress."

The research also stresses the need for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to invest sufficient resources in monitoring for economically damaging pests and diseases in both Irish livestock and crops. The 2012 fodder crisis, according to the research, exposed the potential vulnerabilities of the Irish livestock sector to adverse weather conditions. In a grass-based production system, such as the Irish beef sector, it's important to recognise the threat posed by future climate changes to silage, hay and pasture outputs, and to plan accordingly, the research report states.

Cooperation between the Farming and Environmental Sectors
Today's SCC launch was followed by a roundtable discussion on the research. Key stakeholders from the farming and environmental sectors participated, and the discussion was chaired by well-known television presenter Ella McSweeney.

According to SCC, the aim of the roundtable was to promote cooperation between the farming and environmental sectors.

"Climate change campaigners and farmers are not obvious bedfellows," said Niamh Garvey. "Traditionally, they have had an adversarial relationship, with each group believing the other fails to understand their point of view. This event aims to overcome the differences that have existed in the past, and to explore how we can work together to ensure Ireland's agriculture sector faces up to and adapts to climate change.

"There is an unfortunate assumption in Ireland that, with our temperate climate, our agriculture sector will be relatively unaffected by climate change and planning for more-of-the-same agriculture is relatively risk-free. As the research published today shows, this is not the case.

"Food security within the EU, and the future economic success of Ireland, are issues that affect us all, and we look forward to working with all relevant stakeholders in the future to address these issues."

Input by the Agriculture Minister
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, officially opened today's event. "The 'Food Harvest 2020' strategy sets out the industry's vision for Ireland's agri-food and fisheries sectors, including how they can generate increased levels of economic output and employment opportunities," he said.

"In continuously developing the agriculture sector, I am conscious of the need to take into account the projected impacts associated with future climate change. There is a large amount of work underway within my Department on climate change mitigation measures. In addressing climate change, it is essential that everyone plays their part and, in this regard, I am delighted to see key representatives of both the farming and environmental sectors here today, intent on finding ways to work together to ensure the ongoing success of Irish agriculture."

In addition to Minister Coveney, today's event was also addressed by Dr. Gary Lanigan, Research Officer with Teagasc; John Brennan of the Leitrim Organic Farmers group; and Dr. Stephen Flood, the author of the research report. 

 

Source: Envirocentre

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