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Climate Change impacts on the Livestock Sector

Sheep at Bush

This project aims to predict the impact of climate change on the UK livestock industry and to assess the measures needed to adapt to a changing climate. The emphasis of this project is on gaining an understanding of the nature of the risks that might arise to the public interest, their extent and their value, and the policy interventions that are then required. A major part of the project is the assessment of the costs and benefits of the possible adaptation measures needed to adapt to climate change.

The project has a number of objectives:

  • Carry out a review to estimate future livestock numbers and location - A first step is to ask where the industry is now and where is it going over the next century? This analysis of livestock scenarios predicting future stocks and locations provides the basis for assessing the impacts of climate change.
  • Select a range of climate change and extreme event scenarios - A range of climate change and extreme event scenarios will be downscaled to a regional level for the UK.
  • Modelling climate related changes to grassland/forage production - This modelling input provides a precursor to modelling livestock range movements in response to climate change and therefore a basis for related impacts analysis in terms of health, welfare and assessment of the environmental consequences of adaptation of the livestock sector.
  • Develop an impacts inventory across key livestock species - This inventory will be a mixture of quantitative modelling outputs and qualitative assessments. The modelling will involve the integration of biophysical and climate models to understand the impacts on both forage species and disease vectors.
  • Value the impacts in monetary terms - Here we aim to convert the impacts into relevant monetary values, where possible, so as to aid policy-making. This may involve the use of non-market valuation techniques from environmental economics, including benefits transfer.
  • Develop an adaptations inventory - This task entails drawing up a series of relevant adaptation plans.
  • Carry out a cost-benefit appraisal of adaptation plans - The costs and benefits associated with the adaptation plans are to be estimated and compared with respect to net present values (NPV) and the internal rate of return (IRR) arising. Sensitivity analysis is to be undertaken to allow us to determine which benefit-cost estimates are critical in determining net values.
  • Appraise the distributional implications of efficient adaptation plans - The NPV and IRR figures are proxies for economic efficiency, but do not account for any distributional and/or equity impacts arising, i.e. who are the winners and losers and how vulnerable are they to the changes arising? This task explicitly integrates vulnerability analysis with the conventional economic measures of performance.
  • Provide recommendations on ‘optimal’ adaptation in the UK livestock sector - This task synthesises the outcomes of tasks 6 to 8 and provides a synopsis of our key findings with respect to the alternative adaptation plans.

Total Funding: £199,661

Funders - Defra

Research Partners - Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research

Prof Bob Rees

Professor of Agriculture & Climate Change / Head of Carbon Management Centre

Address: Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Peter Wilson Building, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG.

Telephone: 0131 535 4365


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