The Dark Side of the Sun

Private: Sofia Romano

Senior Account Executive, UK

British sentiment has certainly changed its tune since the ‘Beast from the East’ dominated headlines back in March. We’re now halfway through the summer season and the heat has been stifling. Then, last weekend, the heavens opened and a tropical thunderstorm came crashing down.

Being Brits, we adore talking about the weather and the rapid shifts provide ample opportunity for small talk: we complained about the overbearing heat of the Central Line, or the uncomfortably warm evenings disrupting our sleep, but overall sentiment remained high; it was hard to avoid the influx of emails that began with a reference to the sunshine. Now that the rain from the weekend has passed, many Brits are excited for what is predicted to be a long period of sunshine once again.

Many, but not all. Two industries in particular are far from delighted: agriculture and European tourism.

Satellite Images of British Heatwave EffectsSatellite images of Britain in May (left) and recently (right). Source: SWNS, via The Independent

Burning agricultural resources

When we experience heat waves and minimal rain, hobbyist gardeners lament their browning lawns. For others, their very livelihoods are threatened.

Wildfires have been spreading, threatening safety and killing crops. Rising temperatures are highly detrimental for those reliant on agriculture to make a living. While many Brits took advantage of the weather via beaches and sunbathing, farmers carried water for miles, dug wells to keep their crops and livestock alive, and worked through the night to collect the little moisture available.

Heat and drought cause more than physical pain for farmers; they can cause economic pain. Farmers have raised concerns that a shortfall of rain will increase the cost of animal feed so many farmers will have to sell their livestock to compensate. Fewer cows mean less commercial milk production, causing a drop in supply and a consequential rise in consumer milk prices. And it’s not just milk costs we need to be worried about; our veggies are at stake too!

The Guardian details nicely (or rather gruesomely, actually), the impact of the heat wave on our vegetables:

  • Lettuces: 40% increase in demand; yields down by 25%; prices up by 22%
  • Carrots: yields expected to be down by 30%; prices up nearly 55%
  • Onions: production expected to be 25% smaller this year; prices up nearly 55%
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: shortages are severe; prices up 37% for the former and 81% for the latter
  • Potatoes: the recent downpour has improved matters slightly, but the crop is still likely to be around 25% lower in production than last year
  • Apples: at best, production will be in line with last year
  • Peas: expect smaller peas and increased attacks from pests such as the pea moth

The sun is here to stay, and so are we

The veggies (or our pockets, rather) are hurting, but so is international tourism. We all know that the summer months are a deadzone in Europe: from July through to September, you can forget trying to get an important meeting in the diary.

In fact, in August 2017, 63% of Brits surveyed said they were planning to travel to Europe in the next 12 months (ABTA), and that’s excluding the last-minute holiday bookings.

This year, though they’re still taking time off work, Brits are ditching sunny Spain and opting to holiday in the UK instead. This is great news for many and particularly those lucky enough to have the seaside on their doorstep. For professionals such as travel agents, companies, or international communities reliant on UK tourism, the impact has been rather bleak.

British beaches have stolen the sunbathers, swimmers and volleyball players, and kept them from seeking refuge in hotter climates. Travel agents have therefore slashed their prices on trips abroad.For example, TUI cut the price of its foreign holidays by up to 72%, The TImes reported a week-long stay for two in Thassos, Greece, dropped from £686 pp to a measly £191.

While it may not be bad for consumers that travel agents are reducing their hiked up prices, the tourist communities and seasonal industries throughout Europe will experience far tougher challenges should this trend continue.

Is the future bright?

Climate has a clear and measurable impact on local economies. We’ve seen it in California, where drought and wildfire routinely cost dollars and lives. And CNBC recently profiled the economic impact of the drought in Cape Town, South Africa. Regardless of one’s stance on climate change, we must acknowledge the impact that weather has on various industries, and those impacted must work to be agile as changes manifest. That said, while this (until now) rare heat lasts, I’ll be making as many trips to the seaside as I can manage.