Adaption to climate change
The RSPB is campaigning for policies which support farmers to and help them adapt in the face of climate change.
Climate change is altering patterns of weather in the UK - how much rain we get and when it falls, seasonal temperatures and how much they vary and the frequency and severity of ‘extreme’ weather events.
- Some of these changes may be positive for farmers, like a longer growing season.
- Some will definitely be negative, like droughts or unseasonal frosts.
- Some are hard to predict - for example, certain pests might expand their range or become harder to control. Indirect effects may be much harder to predict, and may have greater consequences.
Clearly farmers will need to adapt so they can continue to produce crops and raise livestock in the changing environment. They may need to alter which crops they grow, the timing of key farming operations, how they manage their water use and what shelter or shade they provide for animals.
The effect of climate change
Many farmers have already started making changes.
Climate change brings unpredictable weather, so we will need a diverse range of farming systems producing a diverse range of crops and livestock breeds to make sure the system is resilient to whatever weather comes our way.
However, farming provides more than food. It is also intimately connected with many of the other services we need from land including clean water, healthy soils and flourishing wildlife. We need farmers to adapt their businesses in ways which safeguard these vital services.
Farmers can help nature to adapt to climate change by providing good-quality habitat in which wildlife can live and move. Building up thriving populations of farmland wildlife will make our farmlands better able to cope with climate change and help secure the future of our much-loved species.
What does this mean for UK farmers?
The role of farming in providing sufficient supplies of safe, healthy food will continue to be vital.
Food production will alter around the world, in some places it may cease altogether as the climate becomes unsuitable for crops.
The most important action UK farmers can take towards meeting future food needs is to maintain our land’s capacity to provide. That means looking after our soils, water and wildlife so they are resilient to the changes which are happening.
The RSPB is campaigning for policies that support farmers to make good decisions about adaptation, which bring long-term benefits to farming, wider society and wildlife.