CLIMATE change will cost Irish agriculture up to €2bn a year if it's allowed continue unchecked, a new report has warned.
The costs will be mainly due to more disease and pests affecting animals and crops, flooding and more resources needed to cope with extreme weather events like this year's fodder crisis, the report for Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) found.
Winter rainfall will increase by up to 17pc and summer rainfall will decrease by up to 25pc over the next 70 years at current trends, which will result in more variable weather; including drought, flooding, heavy rain and extreme temperatures, according to the report by Dr Stephen Flood of NUI Maynooth.
This will lead to changes in the types and prevalence of agricultural pests and diseases, increased stresses for animals, and changes to water availability and crop yields which will cost between €1bn-2bn a year by the middle of the century.
The impact of increased regional rain had been seen in this year's fodder crisis which the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association had estimated would cost around €900m.
There were some opportunities for Irish farmers arising from climate change as wheat and beet yields were set to increase significantly and the outlook for Irish grain exports was promising as other countries saw yields fall due to water shortages, the report noted.
However the costs associated with climate change were greater than the government Harvest 2020 target of boosting Irish dairy and beef output by €1.5bn over the next seven years.
SCC spokesperson Niamh Garvey said Ireland needed to address climate change now to make sure agriculture continued to thrive.
Powerful steps would include increasing crop diversity, altering planting dates and managing water supplies, and strong targets to reduce emissions.