POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Climate Change and Agriculture
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, which has implications for food security. This POSTnote examines measures to reduce the impacts of food production and agricultural land use on climate change (mitigation) and to adapt agricultural land use to that change (adaptation).
Agriculture is responsible for a substantial proportion of UK (10%) and global (10-12%) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. In the UK, climate change is projected to result in warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers. Globally, climate change is projected to increase temperatures and change rainfall patterns; increasing the frequency of extreme events, such as droughts and floods. Resulting impacts on food production come at a time when there is increasing pressure from population and consumption growth. Impacts of climate change on agriculture across the globe will have direct implications for UK food security as the UK imports 40% of the food it consumes.
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate impacts as it is based on biological systems dependent on weather and climatic conditions. Impacts will vary by location, social and economic settings and the level of future global warming. However, any level of climate change will affect growing conditions for fruit cereals and livestock, including changes to temperature and the availability of water. Mitigation of GHG emissions from agricultural production can be achieved by changing demand for food production and adoption of best farming and land management practices.
Key points in this POSTnote include:
- Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change, as well as the fourth highest greenhouse gas emitting sector globally.
- Changes in temperature and rainfall, shifting pests and diseases, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events will affect food production and security globally.
- Emissions from food production could be reduced by encouraging healthier diets, reducing food waste, and changing farming and land management practices.
- Agriculture could be more resilient to climate change impacts through new technology or by diversifying crops on farms.
- Changes in food demand and farming practices may enable land to be taken out of agricultural use for land uses that deliver climate change mitigation and adaptation.
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:
Professor Alan Dangour, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine*
Dr Alexander Muller, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)
Dr Anthony Velazquez, University College London
Brendan Freeman & Indra Thillainathan, UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC)
Dr Ceris Jones, National Farmers Union (NFU)*
Professor Charles Godfray, University of Oxford
David Bullock & Matt Williams, National Trust
Professor David Powlson, Rothamsted Research*
Dr Helen Downie, N8 AgriFood, University of Manchester*
Hugh Martineau, Ricardo Energy and Environment
Harley Stoddart, Kim Matthews & Martina Dorigo, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)
Professor Joe Morris, University of Cranfield*
Laurence Webb, Tesco
Dr Marco Springmann, University of Oxford
Dr Matt Davies, University College London
Mike Barry, M&S
Nigel Maxted, University of Birmingham
Peter Sutton, Syngenta*
Professor Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen*
Dr Rick Bruintjes, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)*
Dr Luke Spadavecchia, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)*
Paul Nunn, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)*
Tony Pike, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)*
Dr Robin Fears, European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC)*
Professor Tim Benton, University of Leeds and Chatham House Visiting Fellow
Dr Tim Searchinger, World Resources Institute (WRI)
Dr Vera Eory, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
*Denotes people who acted as external reviewers of the briefing
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