The effect of climate change on the world’s agriculture and forestry will vary from region to region, but studies indicate that tropical areas such as Africa and South America will experience significant negative impacts including droughts and crop failure.
In contrast, Europe will experience a mixture of impacts where the south will experience an increase in summer droughts and heat stress and the north will experience some initial positive effects such as a lengthening of growing seasons. These positive effects will eventually be outweighed by adverse impacts if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.
It is clear that agriculture and forestry practices in all countries will have to adapt to climate change, but it is the people in the poorer countries who have the least means to do so and are therefore the most vulnerable.
Research indicates that Irish agricultural practices may have to change to adapt to projected changes in the Irish climate. The projected changes include reduced summer rainfall and increased frequency of drought, which may require irrigation of lands. Increased rainfall during winter periods may also lead to flooding of farmland. These changes would have economic impacts and may have implications for the viability of some farming practices.
Research is ongoing to better identify the likely extent of the effect of climate change on farming in this country and to assist in identifying adaptation options to respond to unavoidable climate impacts.
Cereals such as barley are currently well established in Ireland and are predicted to show increased yields with the predicted increases in ambient temperatures in Ireland. This is because they are less sensitive to the predicted rainfall changes than other crops. Other existing marginal crops, such as maize, may become viable with the increased temperatures, longer growing seasons and reduction in frost days.
Unlike cereals, the potato is very sensitive to water stresses. The increased frequency of summer drought (particularly in the east and south east) may lead to a requirement for irrigation in drier parts of the country, questioning the future viability of potato farming in parts of the country.
As agriculture is the largest emissions sector in Ireland, we will face significant fines in future for missing climate change targets if reductions in emissions are not implemented.
Approximately 11% of the Republic of Ireland ’s surface is covered in forests which thrive in Ireland ’s mild and wet climate. For plants and trees, an increase in ambient temperature and ambient CO2 concentration may lead to increased metabolism and therefore increased growth and productivity.
On the negative side, the increased temperature may lead to alteration in the insect and pest populations that can damage the trees. In addition, increases in extreme weather events may result in greater impacts to forests through wind damage.
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