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• This note records some predictions and comment relating to the effect of climate change on agriculture and forestry. Other related notes are How UK farmers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions (SN/SC/4340) and Food Security: UK Policy (SN/SC/4985).

• Worldwide effects of climate change are already having an effect, via increases in world food prices, partly because of extreme weather events in countries as far apart as Australia and Russia.

• Within the next decades, climate change is likely to have severe effects on UK agriculture. Increased numbers of extreme events – such as floods – may be the most serious immediate problem.

• The effects may be partially mitigated by planting different crops and developing new varieties.

• The position is complicated because local effects of global warming are extremely difficult to estimate. Although the UK has been getting warmer, we have had record floods in the summer of 2007, then two cold winters in 2009/10 and 2010/11. Short-term uncertainty makes planning difficult.

• A Met Office report in December 2011 shows the difficulty of trying to reach an agreed conclusion about the effects on UK agriculture.

• In the longer term, rising sea level will be a severe problem because so much of the UK’s most fertile land is close to the sea and at a low altitude.

• Soil erosion could be a serious problem in hot dry summers, but the UK is probably better placed than Mediterranean countries that could face severe problems after only a small temperature increase.

• A Defra risk assessment in 2012 emphasises potential benefits and business opportunities as well as threats.

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