Time to head up to some more familiar farming. Madeira is as far south as Morocco, but 350 miles into the Atlantic and rising up to 1800 metres high. The sea and the altitude give it different microclimates and different crops as you climb the slopes.
Soon we were among fields of maize, then wheat next door to lemon groves. But they’re small and rather unkempt compared with our own cereal farms. The climate here may be farming-friendly but the landscape is not: peaks and ravines make for small plots and limited machines. Mix Madeiran weather with British geography and you could be on to a winner.
Ascend further and you enter the forest that once cloaked the whole island and this, once again, suggests a less than bleak destiny for our own woodlands. Most trees in Britain will benefit from warmer temperatures and increasing CO2. In fact, according to Dr Carey's report, our plants tend to have a “wide biogeographic amplitude”, which means that they’ll tolerate most of the scenarios suggested by climate models for the next 60 years.
But there are downsides to the vision from this authoritative crystal ball. As Britain warms, so the species hanging on up north and on mountain tops could have nowhere left to go. The ptarmigan, blue hare and dotterel could die out. Lowland heath – one of our most prized habitats – is likely to fall victim to summer fires as the heather dries out. Extreme weather events like floods and occasional drought could be more frequent.
Also the Madeira effect misses one part of the country: the South East from Kent and Sussex up through London to Essex and Suffolk. Here the closer comparison is with southern Spain or Morocco, hot and dry.
Dr Carey is in no doubt that, globally, climate change promises more peril than pleasure and the economic and political effect of that will still hit Britain. Also, if warming continues unabated, our Madeiran sweet spot will evaporate by the end of the century. I, too, will be long gone by then.
So as I look out over the terracotta tiles and whitewashed walls of Madeira’s capital Funchal, I can’t help thinking that this is the kind of weather that forecasters call “good”. Yet locals here suggested a psychological side-effect to Britain importing their climate. “Your culture, sense of humour and outlook are shaped by the weather and swapping blue for grey would be ‘Not British’.”
Listen to Costing the Earth on Radio 4 - today at 3:30pm
Illustration by Paul Slater