Page last updated at 00:42 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

A future of mud, wet and fears

Bigger tractor tyres are the norm for some farms because of wetter weather

In the third of a three-part special on climate change, BBC Scotland's social affairs reporter Fiona Walker finds out how farmers in Ayrshire are already preparing for long-term weather changes.

Part One -Thailand's rising tide of problems

Part Two - Island braced for winds of change

Have you seen the size of tractor tyres recently? Jane Lamont, who's an Ayrshire farmer, says they can't farm without them. They need extra large tyres to get across the increasingly wet fields.

And she says even the famous Ayrshire tattie is now scarce because the growing conditions have changed so much. "You'd struggle to find an Ayrshire tattie grown in Ayrshire now. It's too difficult to grow them along the coast," says Jane.

So, if you think climate change is something that will affect future generations, if at all, farmers in Ayrshire say it's already changed the way they work.

Alan Hogarth is a dairy farmer who's been forced to keep his cows indoors for the majority of the year.

He says he's living the consequences of climate change as the wetter weather drenches the grass and cows can no longer graze upon it.

Alan adds: "As far as climate change is concerned, we are experiencing it first hand - wet ground conditions that we just can't graze cows on. Having cows housed longer brings increased feed costs and environmental issues, generally making the job more difficult."

These farmers are keen to know what Scotland's weather will be like in the future because their livelihoods depend on it.

Dr Dave Reay from Edinburgh University says in the short term there's good news for farmers because they will get a longer growing season but the winters will get much wetter.

He explains how it's not just farmers who should be preparing for higher temperatures.

"Are we prepared for more skin cancer if people go out in the sun more, are kids prepared to carry on learning in higher summer temperatures or will schools have to shut down?

"For infrastructure we're putting in place now for the next 50 years we'll have to ask will it cope? So, for a road we're building now, will it cope with high summer temperatures or will it melt? Life will be quite different from how we live today," says Dr Reay.

Small changes

BBC Scotland asked the chief scientist at the Met Office, Professor Julia Slingo, to give a clearer idea what Scotland would look like in 2080, according to the latest climate projections.

She says: "Scotland will be one or two degrees warmer, have longer growing seasons. There'll be wetter winters particularly in the West of Scotland, and heavier rainfall, with flooding and landslides.

"Predictions are not so clear for summer - small changes in global warming will make big changes quite quickly and we should be preparing ourselves."

Prof Slingo adds: "The fact that we have a few people who don't accept the science but aren't able to provide us with evidence of why we're wrong, I think we should just not listen to them."

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