Prepare for unexpected climate events – but can we?

Reported is the driest ever on record and hottest ever recorded for the period, and OMG might be the response from agribusiness in those affected districts.

First look at these three stories:

South Australia and western Victoria head into drought after dry October

Catherine McAloon, Friday November 7, 2014 – 15:34 EDT

“The weather bureau’s latest drought statement shows severe rainfall deficiencies have developed in western Victoria and south-east South Australia.

South Australia recorded its driest October on record.

Australia-wide, it was the seventh driest October overall, but maximum temperatures across the country were the hottest ever recorded for the month.

Climatologist Lynette Bettio says rainfall from July to October in parts of western Victoria and southern South Australia was among the lowest ever for that period.

“”These are percentile rankings, so if you lined up all the July to October periods on record, starting at 1900, which is when we start our records, this July to October period, those areas covered by the rainfall deficiencies, which is much of western Victoria and southern parts of South Australia, would be in the bottom 10 per cent and the bottom 5 per cent,”” Dr Bettio said.

Richard Thornton, of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre, says the dry conditions could mean bushfires develop sooner than expected.”

Academic says climate extremes the major problem for farmers

Michael Condon, Friday November 7, 2014 – 15:27 EDT

“An academic says climate change will not be catastrophic for farmers, as they can manage any long term change.

Agricultural scientist Professor Richard Eckard, from the University of Melbourne, says extreme weather events like fire and flood do more damage to farmers and farming viability than the long term nature of any climate change.

“”That is where attention should be focussed,”” Prof Eckard said.

“”Because the real threats are dealing with the extreme weather events.

The attitudes are slowly changing to recognise that there is something changing in our weather.

I think a lot of the farming community might say that that is part of the natural cycle but regardless of whether or not you think it is a permanent change or a natural cycle, it does represent a change in what we see in the extremes.

A heatwave in November is one example of that.

Any gradual change we can adapt to over time, if is a gradual increase in temperature you can start breeding different animals or plants in that direction to deal with those changes.

It is really the unexpected extreme events that will catch us unawares that we need to be prepared for.

I am talking about the floods, the bushfires the extremes in temperature, in unusual times throughout the year,”” Professor Eckard said.”

Time to get serious about land use and emissions

By Stephen Bygrave on 10 November 2014

“Agricultural emissions in Australia could be responsible for over half of Australia’s total emissions. The land use sector has the most to lose, and the most to gain from climate change. Following discussion with farmers, it’s clear many of them are looking at ways they can stay on their land, and even make it more productive in the face of the changing climate.

There are those already revegetating their land, and experiencing the benefits of doing so. Others are looking to keep their topsoil, that otherwise blows all the way to Antarctica, with methods such as no-till farming.

Our research also found that just leaving native forests to recover could draw down more than 10 year’s worth of Australia’ total annual carbon pollution.

The recommendations in Land Use: Agriculture and Forestry are not radical – no more than the IPCC calling for global zero emissions is radical. They’re things that some are already doing, and that we must do if we’re to inhabit the planet into the future.

In fact one thing the fifth assessment report does very clearly is provide even stronger evidence that we’re already feeling the impacts of climate change. As if we needed it. We’ve already been in conversation with farmers who’ve been forced from their land, largely because of climate change. Farmers like John Pettigrew in the Goulburn Valley don’t bulldoze their 10,000 peach trees if there’s any hope of things improving.

We’re heading into a hotter, drier summer in a country where hotter, drier summers have become the norm.  In fact over 75 per cent of Queensland & northern NSW are approaching four years of drought now, and the western districts of Victoria look set to join them.

Even the National Farmers Federation, based on ABARES data, acknowledge that “without actions to adapt to a changing climate and to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases, Australian production of wheat, beef, dairy and sugar could decline by up to 10 percent by 2030 and 19 percent by 2050.”

One of the pathways identified in our paper is to reduce livestock by 24% in the intensive zone and by 16% in the extensive zone. This matches the trend of Australians overall eating less meat, and allows farmers to take control of their production before the decisions are taken out of their hands.

This number is fully encompassed by the controversial live export trade – meeting this target would still allow for consumption of far more meat than is healthy for everyone in the country.”

Co2Land org asks: What does all this mean? We do not think it matters whether is it anthropogenic or not as the cause. However, we do care that what contributes to our wellbeing needs us to care. You see our markets need a healthy environment as much as carbon life forms do too. So even if we just assume people, and our activities are 50% responsible for the change in climate the measure still needs to be based on what if we don’t abate and what difference will that make.

Without complex modelling a significant number can still be indicative of what could be avoided. And, what must be avoided is the tipping point of climate change – the point not imaginable.

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