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Australian agriculture must adapt to climate change

By: Thanh Loan Nguyen
08 July, 2010

In Australia's first ever climate change adaption conference, scientists and decision makers delivered a clear message: agriculture and farming businesses must cope with the changing weather patterns to ensure long-term food security.

National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility Director, Professor Jean Palutikof, said the conference covered important issues and resources that would help our industries to adapt to the climate change strain.

"Despite growing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some impacts (such as more intense floods, droughts, bushfires, and rising sea levels) are now inevitable. We must therefore plan for and adapt to these changes, in order to minimise the negative impacts and enhance the benefits to natural systems, societies and human activities. This represents a challenge for decision making at all levels, from individuals to governments, and in business and industry," Professor Palutikof said.

CSIRO member and Economics Lecturer at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Rod Duncan. states that agriculture in Australia is the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

"Climate change is likely to affect agriculture in a number of ways: changes in rainfall and temperature will affect crop production. Changes in the quantity and quality of pasture, as well as temperature increases, will affect the productivity of the livestock industries, and severe weather conditions (e.g. bushfires and flooding), will affect crop yields and stock," he said.

However, a spokesperson on behalf of the Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group believes that Australian farmers will also have to worry about external factors such as interest rates and inflation, and international competition, which are – once again – outside farmers' control.

"Future growth is likely to depend more on export markets than on the comparatively small domestic market. Important trade-related factors include world market conditions; trade barriers such as tariffs, and import quotas, quarantine and technical requirements such as labelling; and biosecurity decisions affecting imports and the disease status of the exports.

"Growing competition from countries such as Brazil and China means Australian agriculture and food exporters will be under pressure to improve competitiveness.

"Agriculture and food businesses will need to adapt to the various challenges arising from the climate trends, such as increasing average temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. Risk management strategies will need to evolve to meet the potential challenges arising from climate change. Research may be needed to develop new crops and varieties specifically suited to different climatic patterns," said the spokesperson.

There is no doubt that climate change is the most important issue facing Australia's future, though Duncan believes there isn't enough political willingness towards this intense issue.

"If you think global warming is real then you should start electing politicians that might do something about it. But in order for that to happen, people have to be willing to have $300 to fill up their car, they might have to double up on their utility bills. Now, until people are willing to double the cost of their electricity or their price of petrol, then we can’t do anything about global warming," Duncan said.

Palutikof says that the sooner farmers start to implement key strategies to their farms and businesses, the sooner can Australia's agriculture prosper.

"Regardless of what mitigation actions we take now as a nation, or globally, to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it is too late to 'mitigate our way out of the problem' – we will need a mixture of adaptation and mitigation measures," she said.

The three day conference was held at the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Queensland and concluded 2nd July 2010.

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Bert Stahr | Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 2:41 PM
This is concocted rubbish. The climate always has and always will keep changing, so what is new is a gaggle of otherwisw unemployables are managing to get themselves into the feed trough by spouting puerile rubbish. As far as carbon dioxide is concerned the more the better, beause without it most everything dies. Even with a small lack of it flora suffers. By the way, who paid for most of the costs of the conference ?