By Lin Taylor
LONDON, Nov 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Could rain-sodden Britain become the hot new wine producer?
After a record-breaking heatwave over the British summer, this once unlikely scenario could yet happen as rising heat due to climate change turns parts of the famously wet, grey country into prime grape-growing land, researchers said on Friday.
Scientists identified Kent, Sussex and East Anglia in east and south-east England, along with Wales, as emerging hotspots that could produce enough wine to rival France's Champagne region, which sells 310 million bottles of fizz each year.
"This summer's heatwave has led to a record grape harvest and a vintage year for English and Welsh wine, prompting great interest in investment and land opportunities," researcher Steve Dorling from the University of East Anglia said in a statement.
Using computer models, historical climate records and terrestrial data, the team said 33,700 hectares of land in Britain could be productive for wine-making as weather gets hotter, according to a study in the Journal of Land Use Science.
Wine makers in beer-loving Belgium have also noticed the effects of warming weather, with wine production quadrupling since 2006, government figures show.
Scientists have warned that world temperatures are likely to rise by 2 degrees to 4.9 degrees Celsius this century compared with pre-industrial times.
This could lead to dangerous weather patterns - including more frequent and powerful droughts, floods and storms - increasing the pressure on agriculture. Food production itself is a major contributor to climate change.
But a warming planet could also bring benefits.
Countries in the far north, such as Iceland, have seen valuable fish turn up in waters that were previously too cold.
Still, some experts argue that the picture isn't clear cut as warming waters could also bring new predators and diseases.
An October study in the journal Nature Plants warned that climate change will brew trouble for beer lovers in coming decades as it shrinks yields of barley, the top grain used to make the world's most popular alcoholic drink.
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)
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