Ritchie, P. D., Greg S. Smith, Katrina J. Davis, Carlo Fezzi, Solmaria Halleck-Vega, Anna B. Harper, Chris A. Boulton, Amy R. Binner, Brett H. Day, Angela V. Gallego-Sala, Jennifer V. Mecking, Stephen A. Sitch, Timothy M. Lenton & Ian J. Bateman. (2020). Shifts in national land use and food production in Great Britain after a climate tipping point. Nature Food, 1(1), 76-83.
Climate change is expected to impact agricultural land use. Steadily accumulating changes in temperature and water availability can alter the relative profitability of different farming activities and promote land-use changes. There is also potential for high-impact ‘climate tipping points’, where abrupt, nonlinear change in climate occurs, such as the potential collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Here, using data from Great Britain, we develop a methodology to analyse the impacts of a climate tipping point on land use and economic outcomes for agriculture. We show that economic and land-use impacts of such a tipping point are likely to include widespread cessation of arable farming with losses of agricultural output that are an order of magnitude larger than the impacts of climate change without an AMOC collapse. The agricultural effects of AMOC collapse could be ameliorated by technological adaptations such as widespread irrigation, but the amount of water required and the costs appear to be prohibitive in this instance.