Horticulture

Action call on climate change

By Alana Christensen

Farmers have called for urgent action to address climate change in the wake of a new report detailing the extent to which climate change has fuelled extreme weather events in 2018.

The report Weather Gone Wild was released by Climate Council last week shows that Australian insurance companies paid out more than $1billion in claims following extreme weather events in 2018, the fourth hottest year on record.

Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey said the continuing dry conditions were making life tough for dairy farmers, with Dairy Australia also calling for a ‘‘significant, long-term’’ response.

‘‘Last year we received less than half our average annual rainfall, and water prices rose to the second-highest level on record due to low supplies and then low water allocations,’’ Mr Hoey said.

‘‘As our climate changes, dairy farming in northern Victoria is becoming increasingly difficult. This is having a flow-on effect to our local communities, as families battle with increased debt or decide to leave the industry and area.

‘‘The longer government go without taking decisive action to turn our current trajectory around, the harder those policy decisions will be and the more difficult it will be for farmers to manage extreme climate conditions.’’

The report found that the past four years have been the hottest on record for global surface temperature, with extreme weather events influenced by climate change.

‘‘Low rainfall increased long-term rainfall deficiencies, with autumn going down as the second-driest on record (since 1900) across southern Australia. July was the second-hottest on record for Australia as a whole, and the driest since 2002 during the Millennium Drought,’’ the report states.

‘‘The effect of the drought on farmers’ incomes (holding other variables constant) has been the second-worst since 1978, comparable only to 2002-03 during the Millennium Drought ... The current drought in eastern Australia is forecast to cut Australia’s GDP growth by up to $12.5billion in 2018-19.’’

Farmers for Climate Action chief executive officer Verity Morgan-Schmidt said last year was another tough year for Australian agriculture and called for urgent action on climate change.

‘‘Farmers are adaptable but there’s only so much we can do. We’re calling on all rural and regional MPs to stand up for their communities, the social fabric of which is being torn apart as a result of our changing climate,’’ she said.

Climate Council chief executive officer Amanda McKenzie said there were solutions, but the time to tackle climate change was quickly running out.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has called for a nationally co-ordinated approach to climate change including information on climate scenarios that take into account potential regional variations, current work on adaptation across the nation and also identified risks and opportunities in agriculture.

‘‘As climate changes it’s important we give farmers the best tools and information possible to cope with it,’’ he said.