CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Australian agriculture must adapt to climate change

“Our science highlights a clear urgency to act to prepare Australian agriculture for future impacts and opportunities under climate change,” said the book’s co-editor, Chief Research Scientist with CSIRO, Dr Mark Howden.

“Australia is highly sensitive to climate change and we know enough to start preparing adaptation strategies now. Well-informed and forewarned by science, we have the opportunity to implement practices to minimise the risks and enable primary industries to survive and prosper.

“With effective adaptation, it is possible that agriculture will not be substantially worse off under the quite challenging climate change scenarios for Australia, but we need to start planning and acting now,” Dr Howden said.

The book’s findings are based on the expertise of senior researchers from CSIRO, state government departments, universities and other research institutions. It explains how climate change is likely to affect Australia’s primary industries and provides summary information on promising options for dealing with these challenges.

“It is the first publication that systematically outlines climate variability and climate change impacts and response options for Australia’s primary industries,” Dr Howden said. “This builds on substantial industry collaboration and I see this as a step in the journey together to deal with the challenges before us.”

Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change includes potential options for significant industries to survive and prosper in the face of climate variability and change. Industries include: grains, cotton, rice, sugarcane, wine grapes, horticulture, forestry, broadacre grazing, intensive livestock industries, marine fisheries, aquaculture and water resources.

Examples of adaptation options include: new breeds of crops better suited to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air, higher temperatures and reduced water resources; changing fishing practices to match changing species distributions and populations; and choosing more suitable sites and species for forestry plantations.

This book also includes information on greenhouse gas reduction options. The authors emphasise the significant need to develop the capacity within farm enterprises, communities and industries to adapt to global challenges. This includes considering social, economic and institutional constraints to adapting practices.

According to the Director of Primary Industries and Climate Change with the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Dr Michael Robinson, Australian farmers have always adapted to changing markets, new technologies and climate variability.

'Climate changes are likely to be far-reaching and will add to the substantial pressures that already exist for agriculture,” Dr Robinson said.

“Adaptive responses must be supported by good science and this science must be available and accessible. Furthermore, we will need to grow our research activities to match our growing understanding of the implications of climate change. A national effort is necessary, requiring good collaboration and coordination.

“This book is a critical contribution on the latest research and a start on the right path to assisting our primary industries. It is also an example of what can be achieved through collaboration.'

Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change was funded by the National Climate Change Strategy for Primary Industries (CCRSPI) and CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship.

Reference: Stokes C & Howden M. (Eds.) 2010. Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Preparing Australian Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the Future. CSIRO PUBLISHING. 296 pp.

The CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship research program addresses the urgent national challenge of adapting to a changing and variable climate.

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