25/01/2018

Climate Change: The Heat Is On All Of Us

The Weekly Times - Steven Hobbs*

Looking for leader: Support is needed on climate, energy and agriculture policy.
LIKE many in the bush, my family keeps a close eye on rainfall.
There are detailed records for our part of the Mallee dating to the 1880s, and I have kept them since the 1980s.
We have watched as decade aver­ages have dropped and high temperature records topple.
Of course, some years were better for rainfall than others, but overall the trend only travels in one direction: down.
What I see on my farm tallies with what scientists around the world are saying: the climate is changing — and fast.
From federation to today Australia as a whole has warmed by more than 1C.
Does 1C matter? Well yes, a hell of a lot.
According to US weather agencies, 2017 was one of the hottest years on record for the globe. Our own Bureau of Meteorology tells us 2017 was Australia’s third warmest since 1900.
Here in Victoria, March was ­declared the hottest such month on record, and November the second-hottest. June, meanwhile, was ­declared the driest with rainfall well below average for much of eastern Australia.
We are getting 30 per cent less rain on our property since the 1990s. On average that is 125mm less rain a year, of which 100mm is from the crucial growing season.
While some politicians are still ­debating what to do about climate change, from the air-conditioned comfort of Parliament House, farmers like me are working out what else we can do to manage more extreme conditions.
Just before Christmas the bureau warned of “Port Douglas humidity” across Victoria as torrential rainstorms bore down on us.
Many farmers worked all hours to get their crops in, forgoing sleep and upping their risk of injury.
Climate change affects all aspects of our lives.
This is not a cycle. This is not just natural variability.
You can choose to ignore climate change, but it is not going anywhere.
Like a bank mortgage, there is a price to be paid. If you pay it early you pay less — if you put it off, the interest only accumulates.
Plenty of us are adapting to the new reality in our own way. Some farmers are investing in new practices and technologies. Others are sowing new crop varieties, or finding innovative, new ways of conserving water and soil.
But there is only so much we can do as individuals. We need leadership and bipartisan support on climate, ­energy and agriculture policy. Farmers and industry alike need confidence to invest in technology and infrastructure and we need leaders who are clued up on science and ­debating the best way to deal with the situation.
If we do not, then in the long run we will see more people move off the land. Since I started farming (in the 1980s) I’ve experienced more droughts than my father did in his time on the land. They are now once every three years, rather than one in 10. The past is no longer an indicator of what the future holds for farming — it is time we started looking ahead.

*Steven Hobbs is a fourth-generation sheep and prime lamb producer at Kaniva

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