For those who like to think this is just another typical Australian summer, think again:
Australia’s year of extreme weather has collected a fresh record with January posting the hottest average temperatures for the month on record.
With just a day’s data to be collected, the average of maximum and minimum temperatures for the month was 29.7 degrees. That tally was 1.79 degrees above the long-term average.
Australia is seeing extremes in rainfall: parts of the country are experiencing extremes well above the average, other parts are seeing below average rainfall:
As climate scientists have been saying for years, rainfall patterns will change. Climate change does not mean the end of rain – rain will fall with more severity but more infrequently, while its distribution will change:
Average precipitation in southwest and southeast Australia is projected to decline during this time period, while regions such as the northwest may experience increases in rainfall.
Agriculture is going to have to adapt, and that transition will cause pain to farmers and farming communities.
Put bluntly, we will abandon some food-producing regions and shift production elsewhere.
What is happening in Queensland in the Bundaberg valley is a taste of things to come: for the second year in a row farms have been devastated:
The agricultural industry now believes some farmers will be without an income for at least six months and orchardists for much longer, while it may prove to be the last straw for many dairy farmers who were already battling depleted incomes because of the milk price war.
Losses to the sector are likely to be more than $100 million with widespread damage to farm infrastructure, but the figure changes daily because of poor communication in many of the flood-affected areas.
Industry leaders said it was too early to say which foods were likely to be scarce until a better assessment was made but the damage to crops in the high-producing foodbowls of Boonah, Kalbar, the Lockyer Valley, Mundubbera, Gayndah and Bundaberg point to widespread impacts.
Much of the infrastructure rebuilt after last year’s floods has been washed away barely months after being rebuilt. Many farmers will simply give up. Sadly, this is the emerging pattern.
As temperatures rise and extreme events come with increased frequency, agriculture in some parts of Australia will simply become untenable.
Each year the cost of rebuilding will become more prohibitive. Insurance premiums will rise. Government hand outs will cease. Land will be abandoned. Towns will lose their populations, as people drift to the cities or move to other parts of the country.
One could blame inappropriate development and the folly of allowing homes and industry to build in a flood plain. Perhaps.
The devastation Bundaberg and the Lockyer valley are currently experiencing are a harbinger of Queensland’s future.
Conclusion: climate adaptation is now our first priority.