Monday, 3 September 2018

Weather & Climate

This editorial appeared in the September 2018 issue of Newslink, the diocesan magazine for the United Dioceses of Limerick & Killaloe.

What extraordinary summer weather we’ve been having. Many will have enjoyed the hot, dry, almost Mediterranean conditions, even though it brought hose-pipe bans. But farmers are in despair: grass has stopped growing, and crops have withered in the fields.

Those with animals have been feeding fodder intended for next winter, since the pastures are bare and the late, wet spring depleted reserves. They fear that without a good autumn grass crop they will not have enough fodder for the winter. High prices for scarce bought-in fodder threaten losses that could bankrupt them, and I hear tales of farmers selling stock at low prices.

Will there be enough fodder for the winter?
Some tillage farmers have been selling poor standing crops for silage. Yields are down, though a neighbour says he is compensated by a high price for his barley straw to use as feed.

Is this all down to climate change? Climate is about statistics - a single hot, dry summer doesn’t prove anything. But it is consistent with what the climate modelers are telling us is the likely future here in Ireland – more frequent hotter, dryer summers and wetter winters.

One canny retired farmer tells me he thinks this year will cause farmers to change their behaviour to reduce the business risks posed by climate change. He suggests the higher stocking levels promoted by Government policy such as Food Harvest 2020 are unsustainable – the probabilities of long, wet winters and hot, dry summers in a warming world causing fodder shortages are just too high. We can expect to see many farmers go to the wall, he says, as lower stocking levels will not provide the income they need to service the loans they took out to intensify their businesses.

Farmers need our prayers at this time of crisis. Let us pray that they may receive a fair return for their labour, and that in the providence of God the sun will shine, the rain will fall, the grass will grow, and all God’s creatures will be fed.

God bless, Joc Sanders

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