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Britain’s farmland to disappear

Image: Geograph UK

Just weeks after UK Transport Minister was condemned for making the ludicrous claim that UK farmers could make up the shortfall in food imports in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU without a trade deal, UN climate scientists have produced even more bad news.  This is because climate scientists have all but given up on keeping global temperature rises below two degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

In the run up to next week’s COP23 conference in Bonn, climate scientists have announced that the world is on course for three degrees of warming by 2100.  One consequence of this is that the one metre rise in sea level that was anticipated by the end of the century is going to occur much earlier, causing serious disruption around the planet.  Of particular concern to a UK that can no longer rely on food supplies from the EU is the potential impact on some of Britain’s most fertile farmland.  According to Jonathan Watts in the Guardian:

“Lincolnshire’s flat, low-lying agricultural plains, which stretch north from the fens, curling around the Wash to Skegness and Grimsby, have long been a frontline of mankind’s battle to claim and protect food-producing land from the sea.

“But with sea levels rising, a managed retreat is underway that threatens to become a full-scale rout if global temperatures rise by 3C. The UN warns that they will unless governments take far more drastic action to reduce emissions…

“The greatest hits will be on food security and the economy. Lincolnshire boasts nearly a quarter of the land used in England for horticulture and an even higher proportion for peas, beans and vegetables.  Most would be swamped as coastlines are redrawn. Fishing ports and seaside towns would also disappear.”

It is worth remembering that even with herculean attempts to increase agricultural output coupled to increasingly restrictive rationing during the second world war, the UK continued to depend upon food imports shipped across the Atlantic to feed a population two-thirds the size of the current one.  Indeed, we have to look back to the early nineteenth century – when lots of people went hungry – for the last time Britain was “self-sufficient.”  And while some argue that an effort akin to the privations of World War Two might allow the UK to grow its own food, those calculations are all based on the now questionable assumption that all of the prime east coast agricultural land will still be available.

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