Agriculture and climate change


Sir, – The dramatic projections regarding climate change by 2050 are of such magnitude for agriculture that they deserve rigorous debate (“Irish climate set to change dramatically by 2050”, News, September 18th).

Thirty years is within the lifespan of most people alive today, so the decisions we make matter to today’s population.

Climate policy must be as much about adaptation as about mitigation.

I see three areas where decisions about adaptation will be critical but there are many more. These are biodiversity, water and soil.

The 1.6 Celsius increase in temperature forecast may be too great for some native biodiversity but we need to ensure most species at least have sufficient food, and to do so we must increase the diversity of pastures, provide biodiversity corridors, and very carefully choose deep-rooted, storm-resistant tree species for our expanding forest base, as well as paying greater attention to fire risks.

The prospect of droughts and floods needs to be reflected in policy with regard to dairy and tillage, not as a brake on them but as a new and growing reality for adaptive investment decisions.

Soil also needs to be part of adaptation. Soils, now ideal for grassland, will be under enormous stress, and there is no certainty that they will remain highly productive without modified cropping techniques and the prevention of erosion.

And we must protect our most productive soils for, once lost, they are gone for a very long time.

Policy with respect to climate change has, at best, stuttered towards action over the past 30 years.

Addressing adaptation now is an admission of this failure but it is also necessary to ensure the viability of agriculture within 30 years.

Adequate food production and supply are critical to world stability.

We now see clearly the dangers we face within just a few decades and upcoming policy decisions must reflect this. – Yours, etc,


Adjunct Professor

of Agriculture,

University College Dublin,

Dublin 4.