Pete Ritchie, is the executive director of Nourish Scotland, a member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS). He also runs Whitmuir Organic Farm outside Edinburgh.

Ritchie discusses the impact of warm weather on farmers as SCCS launches a campaign to strengthen the draft Climate Change Bill by including a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

THIS year is definitely the year of Aquarius the water bearer on our farm. It feels like only yesterday that the farm water froze and we were carrying 25 litre water canisters to the pigs while they huddled together in their arks to sit out the Beast from the East. Now we’re at it again with the farm water supply having packed in after the long dry spell – and they drink a lot more in this weather too! First the grass was late, then we had a flush and now it’s gone to seed early, with the hay crop smaller than normal. The seeds we sowed several weeks ago to keep the wild birds going next winter haven’t germinated yet.

Some of us can still remember the arctic winters of 1963 and 1983 and the long hot summers of 1976 as well as 2006, so it’s hard to be sure from personal experience if the weather really is getting weirder. But luckily the number-crunchers from Science Advances are on hand: “Humans have already increased the probability of historically unprecedented hot, warm, wet, and dry extremes, including over 50 to 90% of North America, Europe, and East Asia.” Meanwhile, the Gulf Stream, which moderates our local climate in Scotland, is at its weakest since the fall of the Roman Empire, for those who can remember that far back!

The climate has already changed and we face much more extreme weather unless we ramp up the action well beyond where we are now. For farmers in Scotland extreme weather already brings hardship, with a disastrous lambing for many this year. For farmers round the world whose livelihoods are more precarious, whose infrastructure is less resilient and where the weather events are more extreme, climate change brings ruin and destitution. Those working the land are at the sharp end of climate change, but we also can be part of the solution. We can keep carbon in the soil, we can plant trees, we can generate renewable energy, we can manage livestock and manure better, we can use less fertiliser – and luckily for us in Scotland, we can do all that and have more profitable farms.

It’s worrying that after all this time, the latest DEFRA survey shows that about half of the UK’s farmers think that taking action on climate change is unnecessary. We have a professional and moral duty to do what we can, and do it now. Whatever we do, expect more prolonged dry spells, and more heavy rain over the next few decades. My hope is that our children and grandchildren can get back to a world where, more years than not, making hay in Scotland is a mug’s game.