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British farmers may reap benefit of unchecked climate change

British farmers will find their crops much easier to grow by the end of the century, but Spain will be arid and India will face a near-tripling of its flood risk, if climate change is not brought under control, says a new study by the Met Office.

The report, which compares how 24 nations will be affected by the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to pour into the atmosphere unchecked, was revealed at the UN Climate Conference in Durban yesterday.

The study is the first ever detailed, large-scale comparison, using the same methodology, of how different nations will fare with global warming.

The researchers used the amalgamated results of 21 different computer models of the global climate, in institutes around the world, so wide margins of error are possible. But the "central estimate" averaged out for each country allows for comparisons to be made.

In a finding which will surprise many, 96 per cent of Britain's cropland is likely to be more suitable for agriculture in a much hotter world at the end of the century, while no part of it will be less suitable. In France, however, only four per cent of agricultural land will be more suitable, while 55 per cent is likely to be worse. Britain does not fare as well on other measures, with 24 per cent of the population likely to be affected by increased water shortages.

The UK faces a 72 per cent increase in the risk of flooding from rivers, while up to 160,000 more people are likely to be vulnerable to coastal flooding, caused by storm surges and sea-level rises. The study estimates that average temperatures will be 3C higher in southern Britain by the end of the century if nothing is done, and 2.5C higher in the north.

The study also estimated Britain is now experiencing 35 more "unseasonably warm" days a year than 50 years ago.

Some countries are likely to fare much worse than others. Spain, forecast to become much more arid, will be less suitable for agriculture, with an average figure of 99 per cent of cropland facing degradation. Australia and Turkey were close behind on 97 per cent.