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article imageClimate change spells trouble for Scottish whisky production

By Tim Sandle     Jun 4, 2019 in Environment
Edinburgh - The impact of climate change is considerable, and beyond leading to environmental concerns like coastal erosion, it is impacting a multitude of industries. One industry that might not spring to mind is whisky.
The Scottish nature conservation agency last week has flagged the concern climate change across the country, resulting in a number of issues. This included river pollution, eroded peatlands and loss of wildlife. Francesca Osowska, chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage said, in light of current greenhouse gas levels and the subsequent rise in global temperatures: "Imagine an apocalypse – polluted waters; drained and eroding peatlands; coastal towns and villages deserted in the wake of rising sea level and coastal erosion; massive areas of forestry afflicted by disease; a dearth of people in rural areas; and no birdsong."
Also factored in the mix is Scotland's leading export: whisky. Whisky is a leading product in Scotland, as well as being of great cultural importance. Data from the British government indicates that overseas sales of whisky reached £4.36 billion in 2018, with the equivalent of more than 1.2 billion bottles exported globally.
The summer of 2018 in the U.K. was especially hot and the level and sustained nature of the ambient temperature hit whisky production. Scottish distilleries have indicated, as disclosed by The Guardian, that production had to be slowed down during 2018 due to a scarcity of water. The combination of high temperatures and low rainfall led to water levels in springs and rivers falling so low that some distilleries in the Scottish Highlands missed up to a month’s production. For example, leading brand Glenfarclas has seen production drop down by up to 300,000 litres for the year-to-date.
What is of on-going concern is that the impact that hotter and hotter summers, and milder winters, will have upon whisky production in the future — a likely scenario based on current climate change models. Another area impacted is crop yields (Scottish whisky is made from the crop barley).
The supply of whisky is certain to become a discussion point in future Scottish climate change policy debates.
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