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Climate change impacts on the livestock sector - AC0307

Climate change has climbed steadily up the list of government priorities with the recent Stern Review providing a compelling economic case for advancing spending on mitigation. Climate projections from the IPPC forecast warming trajectories of global temperature ranges between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees centigrade by 2100. There is considerable uncertainty attached to these forecasts as well as to the expected impacts. However, many climate scientists note that even if the temperature increase does not exceed 2 degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial levels, significant preventative and remedial adaptation efforts will be required across a range of industrial sectors.

While the UK is economically less vulnerable relative to some other regions of the world its policy response to warming needs to consider both mitigation and adaptation strategies, which both entail a range of costs and benefits across different industrial sectors. Agriculture is regarded as a net contributor to climate change and so can offer a range of cost-effective mitigation options such as carbon sequestration, changes in livestock production practices such as nutritional management and waste disposal. Due to weather dependence, agriculture is also potentially one of the most vulnerable economic sectors to the affects of climate change in Europe. Adaptation is therefore an important public policy priority, with the key question being how much we should spend in adapting the sector to climatic changes. This problem needs to be considered against a backdrop of both sector reform and other public policies that are changing the environmental in which agriculture operates.

This research project aims to appraise the extent of public investment required for adaptation in the livestock sector. Livestock products are an economically signficant activity and there is some incentive for private adaptation investments to safeguard productivity. Under many warming scenarios, it is also possible to anticipate a number of livestock related impacts that have public good implications (e.g. disease spread and the effects of grazing on ecosystems and water quality), and which therefore warrant some level of public intervention to address market failure and to maintain environmental security. Determining this level of public adaptation requires some understanding of both the costs of relevant adaptations and the benefits they bring. In cost-benefit terms, the comparison is therefore between the cost of adaptation investments and the benefit of avoided climate related impacts including extreme events. A rational public adaptation strategy therefore has to map out both sides of this comparison. This analysis accounts for the fact that impacts have a time dimension which has a bearing on how adaptation should be prioritised.

All analysis will be guided by key government documentation on policy appraisal: Green Book:
Greenhouse Gas Policy Evaluation and Appraisal in Government Departments
April 2006 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
This project aims to predict the impact of climate change on the UK livestock industry and to assess efficient adaptation. 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 adaptation options. Our analysis is based on the premise that Defra wishes to distinguish between market-led adaptations, and those where the market will fail to protect public good supply.

To meet these general aims, the following series of objectives and associated tasks apply:

1. Carry out a review to estimate future livestock numbers and location
This analysis of livestock scenarios, predicting future stocks and locations, provides the basis for assessing exposure to climate change and is linked to adaptive capacity and vulnerability.
2. Develop a range of climate change scenarios
A range of climate change scenarios and extreme event assumptions are to be used, downscaled to a regional level for the UK.
3. Modelling changes to grassland/forage production arising from climate change
Impacts to grasslands provide a basis for understanding a range of subsequent impacts in terms of livestock movements, nutrition, health, welfare, diffuse pollution and biodiversity.
4. 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.
5. Value the impacts endpoints 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.
6. Develop an adaptations inventory
This task entails drawing up a series of relevant adaptation plans using industry best practice and distinguishing the private and public roles and responsibilities. The inventory will determine the taxonomy of relevant adaptations and their timing.
7. 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 the effect of extreme event assumptions and the sensitivity of specific cost and benefit assumptions .
8. 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 patterns of possible public adaptation. This task explicitly integrates vulnerability analysis with the conventional economic measures of performance.
9. 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.

10. Carry out final reporting and communication

While much of this research is desk based and derives from existing literature and forecasts (e.g. climate forecasts from UKCIP), stages 3, 4 and 7 will be based on an expert group input. Stage 3 will be based on primary modelling to generate new data. The expert groups will comprise livestock scientists from both the research and private sectors.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Climate change impacts on the livestock sector   (1765k)
• Final Report - Annex : Climate change impacts on the livestock sector   (1874k)
• Final Report - SID5 : Climate change impacts on the livestock sector   (375k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2009

Cost: £199,661
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC Commercial Ltd
Climate and Weather              
Climate Change              
Environmental Protection              
Sustainable Production              
Fields of Study
Agriculture and Climate Change