In the lead up to the Federal Election Kathryn Maxwell, Chair, South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA) explores changes to the Climate harming food production
Since World War II we have had a reliable supply of food, with crop yields growing rapidly. That climb, however, is now stalling due to the impact of rising heat and more punishing droughts. In Australia temperatures have already increased by an average 1 degree and rainfall has declined by about 30%.
Across Australia, our climate zones are moving. It is something Professor Mark Howden, the director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, has been tracking professionally for more than 27 years. What we’re seeing is a couple of things; one is the whole of Australia is warming, although at slightly different rates and in different places, Prof Howden said, “what used to be conditions that we found further north in temperate terms are now happening further south, so you have your temperature migration happening. The other thing that's going on is the rainfall patterns are effectively following that. So the cold fronts that used to bring most of the rainfall to Perth across to Canberra now tend to be tracking further south and that rain is falling now over the Southern Ocean.”
Climate change is impacting adversely on food production around the world – coffee, corn, grapes, wheat and sorgum to name a few. We are completely altering the biophysical conditions that underpin our food system.
Food security harmed by climate change
Food security is critical to human well being and security. In 2010 a severe heat wave hit Russia, and it wrecked the grain harvest, which led the Russian Government to ban exports of wheat. The global price of wheat spiked, and that helped trigger the uprisings in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring — Egypt at the time was the largest wheat importer on the planet.
In August 2018, a massive new scientific study found crop pests are thriving in the new heat. “It gets better and better for them,” said one University of Colorado researcher. Even if we hit the UN target of limiting temperature rise to1.5 degrees Celsius pests are likely to cut wheat yields by 46 percent, corn by 31 percent, and rice by 19 percent. Warmer temperatures accelerate the metabolism of insect pests like aphids and corn borers. “That makes them hungrier and warmer temperatures also speed up their reproduction.”
Climate change impacts on Canberra regions food production
ABC Canberra reported last week that climate patterns observed by farmers and backyard growers in the ACT had changed and this was impacting their crops.
Warmer minimum and maximum temperatures are allowing people to plant well into autumn and winter, because the soil temperatures are warm enough to sustain the crops, but reduced rainfall and increased evaporation means the soils are too dry and require irrigation,
warmer temperatures can bring heat waves that cause crops to fail, for example when they should be ready to harvest.
Soils that have had 100mm of soil moisture depth now might have only 25-30mm.
Regular rain is becoming replaced with fewer but more extreme rain events that can harm crops and animals.
Unseasonable frosts (and intersecting frosts and heat waves) make it difficult to sustain crops.
Less chilling time is causing problems for growers of crops such as apples and cherries.
Climate change impacts on Eurobodalla's food production
Closer to home, SHASA spoke to a number of market gardeners at the SAGE Farmers Market over the last couple of weeks. Some of them said that it had been a very difficult vegetable growing season with inconsistent rain, high humidity and low sub-soil moisture. Stock producers are having to purchase more feed due to the irregularity of rainfall and higher evaporation rates due to higher temperatures. For example in January 2019 temperatures in the Eurobodalla were on average 3 degrees above normal.
This presents concerns for food security in the Eurobodalla. What to do?
Where possible, residents need to get into backyard vegetable growing (with composting) to increase the supply of locally grown vegetables and herbs.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council needs to provide more support to local communities, including the provision of land, to set up community gardens.
We need the Federal Government to have a serious plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions and provide significant assistance to farmers to adapt their farming practices to the changing weather. Importantly there needs to be a collective, government led response to the threats facing food production rather than the responsibility of solution resting solely with individuals.
The following table and information has been compiled Produced by Climate Action Gilmore (Eurobodalla 350, SHASA, Nature Coast Marine Group and the Coastwatchers Association. Authorised by Kathryn Maxwell, 3 Jeffrey Place, Moruya, NSW.
The Greens Carmel McCallum. The Greens have a target of 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and zero carbon emissions for Australia by 2040. The Greens want to end fossil fuel subsidies and ban all new coal mining and coal seam gas fracking. They will end broad scale land clearing and end logging of native forests. The Greens support vehicle emissions standards and electric charging stations. These initiatives will create 180,000 jobs. Labor Fiona Phillips. Labor has a target of 50% renewable electricity with a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030. Labor’s aim is zero emissions by 2050. Labor will put $10 billion into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $5 billion into upgrading infrastructure for renewable electricity. $2 billion for batteries for home solar. $100 million for solar for low income people. Aim for 50% new vehicles to be electric by 2030 and $200 million for charging stations. These initiatives will create 72,000 jobs. Liberals Warren Mundine. The Liberals have an emissions reduction target of 26-28% by 2030, but they are using old Kyoto credits to achieve this. Their key policy, the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund has been cut from $200 million per year to $133 million per year. They plan to build Snowy 2.0 to provide pumped hydro storage. Liberals aim to have 25-50% of new vehicles to be electric by 2030, but they have run a scare campaign against Labor’s 50% target. The Nationals Katrina Hodgkinson said she supports Coalition climate policies, but Nationals have no emissions reduction or renewable energy targets. The Nationals want to help the natural environment safely coexist with agriculture and mining through investing in technology and renewable energy. Independent Grant Schultz said he will work in a bipartisan way to reach consensus on climate action. United Australia Party Milton Leslight. UAP has no targets for emissions reductions and is pro coal mining. Produced by Climate Action Gilmore (Eurobodalla 350, SHASA, Nature Coast Marine Group and the Coastwatchers Association.