RELATED: Extreme El Niños to doulble by 2050
Australia’s savvy farmers, supported by industry and research agencies, can carve a strategic advantage in an uncertain world.
That is the silver lining in alarming news of El Niño double trouble for CSIRO’s principal researcher in agricultural adaptation, Michael Battaglia.
On Tuesday, CSIRO announced research that found damaging extreme El Niño weather events will be twice as common in a warming world.
Australia is set to suffer at least twice as many extreme El Niño weather events by 2050, even if international efforts to limiting the rise in global mean temperature to 1.5° Celsius are successful.
“If the world becomes more variable and unpredictable for agriculture then countries like Australia, with good infrastructure, technology and know-how, can take advantage of a disrupted global market,” he said.
“Climate change will unfold through market preference, such as the niche for produce with a low carbon footprint. We can develop ways to produce a clean, green product so farmers get a premium.”
Australian farmers had developed value skills by farming what is already the world’s most variable climate.
“They are well placed to cope with adversity. For example, graingrowers already know they make their profits in roughly three of ten years,” Dr Battaglia said.
“Now we need to keep developing tools to better anticipate climate variability, especially at a local level. That means better seasonal forecasts, and multi-year forecasts to project when El Niño years will be.”
Dr Battaglia said wine makers changing harvesting practices, or even relocating vineyards, were examples of industry harnessing climate change projections.
Barossa-based Treasury Wines has adapted its harvests to earlier vintages and Victorian-based Brown Brothers has expanded into Tasmania.
“Where we think there may be thresholds coming, (regions or practices becoming unsuitable for crops or livestock) we can identify challenges and help industry relocate or adapt,” Dr Battaglia said.
CSIRO’s research found that even if efforts to stabilise warming are successful, and the temperature is stabilised at 1.5°C above the current average, extreme El Niños will continue to grow in frequency, reaching 14 every 100 years by 2150.
The 2015 Paris climate agreement set a warming reduction target for 195 United Nations signatory countries (except the US, which withdrew this year). It aimed to curb carbon emissions to a level where the rise in mean global temperature are restricted to 1.5°C.