Scotch whisky production risks drying up in little more than half a century because of global warming, academics have warned.
A decline in rainfall and rising temperatures could “drastically impact” the production of spring barley in Scotland by 2080, leaving distilleries without the raw materials to make one of Britain’s biggest exports.
Climate researchers from University College London said that projected temperature increases of 2C by 2080 and an 18 per cent drop in rainfall would have a devastating impact.
They warned that summer heatwaves such as the one that hit Britain in 2018 could become much more frequent.
Many distilleries across Islay, Perthshire, and Speyside were forced to stop production during a summer of record temperatures.
Whisky is the UK’s biggest food and drink export by some margin.
Some £2 billion ($3.85 billion) was shipped overseas in the first six months of 2021 – representing more than a fifth all food and drink sold abroad. The next largest export was salmon valued at £356m ($685 million), according to the Food and Drink Federation.
Carole Roberts from University College London said: “There’s an assumption that Scotland is a wet, rainy place with a constant water supply.
“Climate change is changing when and where it rains, and this will create shortages and change the character of the water – affecting our favourite drams – so planning is essential to protect our whisky.”
The Glengoyne distillery, which has premises in the highlands and lowlands of Scotland north of Glasgow, has created a wetlands facility for liquid waste.
Ahead of the UN Cop26 climate change summit, bosses are calling for greater support of wetlands, which capture carbon similarly to rainforests.
Barbara Turing, brand manager at Glengoyne Highland Single Malt, said: “The threat of climate change is very real, and we all have a role to play in combating its effects.”
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