YOU may not have heard it yet, but for the past few months there has been talk of a “potato crisis” with predictions that potatoes, already up 19.9 percent, could double this winter and stay high until 2024. Cue the panic in the chip shop as well as the average Scottish family – and of course it’s not just about the dads. Because as we now know, the cost of food is going up to increase our bills this winter. Pasta products became more expensive by 22.7%, low-fat milk by 42.7%.

In 2022, according to a report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, climate change and fossil fuel prices could push food inflation up to around 11 per cent, increasing the average household’s monthly spending by £33.90 and shopping bills by around £400 a year as many find themselves in food and fuel poverty poverty.

When it comes to the culprits, the media usually focus on energy prices, the impact of the war in Ukraine and its impact on energy and fertilizer prices. Less frequently mentioned is the impact of climate change and extreme weather events, including this summer’s heat wave across Europe. However, of that extra £33.90 on your shopping bill, £14.23 is estimated to be due to the effects of climate change, according to the ECIU.

Potatoes are part of this story. Tubers require a lot of water to grow – something that historically hasn’t been in too much of a shortage Scotland, but in some areas there was little this year. Experts predict such concern that we may struggle to grow them in more frequent droughts. Leslie Torrance of the James Hutton Institute noted last month: “We’re looking at a hotter and drier summer. By 2030, there will be many more days of heat stress, until 60 is only eight years away. This can significantly affect the types of crops we can grow and where we grow them. We may still be able to produce some potatoes in the north of Scotland, but we really need to do something now.’

Drought and heat are a growing concern in Europe. In accordance with World The Weather Attribution Service says droughts seen in the Northern Hemisphere this summer have become “at least 20 times more likely” due to human-induced climate change.

In its August 2022 Drought in Europe report, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center predicted that EU corn yields would drop by 16%, soybeans by 15% and sunflowers by 12% compared to the five-year average. Italy, which supplies half of the EU’s rice, has had no significant rain in the north since November 2021. The severe drought has affected the country’s rice fields (which produce 1.5 million tons of rice). Losses are estimated at more than 30% of the harvest. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, 80% of rice crops were drowned in floods.

While vacationing in bushfire-ravaged France this summer, I saw that this year has been a wake-up call in parts of Europe. It feels like here in Scotland that awareness is not as acute. But as the potato story tells us, we need look no further than these islands to find climate-related food supply problems. Crops for potatoes, onions, sugar beet, apples and hops in the UK are expected to be 10-50% lower – and this is unlikely to be a one-off. This summer, the Met Office updated its UK climate change projections, saying warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier UK summers are increasing in the UK for the rest of the century, and that the UK faces an increase in both the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. . We can expect food inflation to stay with us if these droughts continue.

But the story is much more serious than rising prices, especially in lower latitudes. An IPCC report published earlier this year predicted: “If current levels of emissions continue, impacts will worsen, particularly after mid-century, with a rapid increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events. Productivity of plants, animals and aquaculture will decrease in most places, and marine and inland fisheries will suffer. Food production will become impossible in some regions, either because the crops or livestock there cannot survive the new climate, or because it is too hot and humid for farm workers to be in the fields.”

What we’re seeing in rising shopping cart receipts is a toxic combination of rising energy prices and something called heat inflation. It is a storm of different factors, in which the drought has compounded the problems caused by the war in Ukraine and the labor shortage after Brexit. We cannot ignore any of these factors, but if we do, the climate will bite us particularly hard. If we don’t get net zero by tackling food poverty now, the price will be more than an extra few pounds on a plate of fish and chips.