Skip to navigation Skip to content

Scotland’s agriculture needs to improve its resilience, Hutton climate change researcher says

Dr Mike Rivington speaks at Farming Scotland conference (photo Farming Scotland)
“The 21st century will be a period of considerable change and the next two decades are critical: either we achieve a ‘managed’ transition to sustainability, or we run the risk of an ‘event driven’ transition, which could be highly negative”

Scotland’s agricultural landscape will need to adapt to new levels of variation in climate, policy and local and global markets if it is to successfully tackle the growing trend of climate change; that was one of the key messages of Dr Mike Rivington, a James Hutton Institute climate change researcher, at this year’s Farming Scotland conference in Carnoustie.

Dr Rivington, based within the Institute’s Information and Computational Sciences in Aberdeen, said that climatically, Scotland appears to be relatively ‘stable’ compared to the rest of the UK, EU and the world, but this needs to be put in a global context. Scotland will likely still experience new levels of weather extremes, set against a background of increasing stresses from current trends in changes to precipitation and temperature.

“Scotland will remain a good place to invest, but there should be no room for complacency. Our climate change modelling indicates an increased variability and likelihood of ‘bad’ years but with some ‘good’ years as well – compared against the rest of the UK and elsewhere.

“A 2°C temperature rise may be ‘tolerable’ in Scotland in respect of agriculture, but a temperature rise of this size on a global scale would have serious consequences on the ability of ecosystems to function, with impacts on economics and society. We should never underestimate how fragile our life support systems are, and just how vulnerable our socio-economic system is.

“The 21st century will be a period of considerable change and the next two decades are critical: either we achieve a ‘managed’ transition to sustainability, or we run the risk of an ‘event driven’ transition, which could be highly negative.”

Dr Rivington said that there is an increasingly important role for Scottish agriculture in achieving multiple objectives: increase food production, limit area expansion, reduce emissions and manage resource use, in the face of fluctuating yields.

“It is a possibility that currently-marginal areas may become more productive, but the most productive soils may experience water limitations. This means soil management and careful selection of crop varieties, to make the best use of available water, will likely become increasingly important,” Dr Rivington added. “There is an increasing need to invest in soils, particularly raising carbon levels through increasing organic matter”.

“Risks will increase, but new opportunities will arise, for example in regard to renewable energy: could we transition to a future based on farming for energy and carbon?”

Dr Rivington has been a scientist at the James Hutton Institute for 18 years. He studied Ecological Science (Bsc), Natural Resource Management (MSc) and a PhD at Edinburgh University. His main research interests are in understanding how climate change will impact land use, in Scotland and globally, and how adaptation options can be developed.

Other interests include ecosystem management and ecosystem services and the need for improved mechanisms to support their maintenance. He has written policy briefs for UNEP on ecosystem-based adaptation, contributed to the US National Climate Assessment chapter on agriculture, and was a member of a UK-US tasks force on extreme weather and resilience of the global food system.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/scotland%E2%80%99s-agriculture-needs-improve-its-resilience-hutton-climate-change-researcher-says on 25/06/19 11:20:37 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.