Climate change is pushing the Riverina into “uncharted territory” of extreme heat, drought, and frost, but Wagga farmers can continue to thrive with the right planning and strategies, said experts at the Wagga Wagga Community Resilience Forum.
Nearly 60 people attended the online forum, hosted by Farmers for Climate Action. The event was the first in a series of events connecting experts in psychological resilience, climate science, and regenerative agriculture with regional communities.
Speaking at the event, Mark Howden, Director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, said that rebuilding after the challenges of the drought, bushfires and coronavirus offered an opportunity for Riverina farmers to build climate resilience into their farming practices.
“Changes in temperatures, rainfall and frost have already affected farm productivity and profitability, and are making less water available for things like irrigation.”
“In Australia, there are people who farm quite successfully in places that are like the future that Wagga is heading towards, places that are warmer and drier and have more summer dominated rainfall. It’s important to develop a strategy for climate risk management.”
He added that re-evaluating the crops and commodities planted; farming wind and solar energy by hosting renewable energy projects on farming properties; and farming carbon could all be options to boost business resilience.
“There are opportunities to learn from each other as we rebuild and go ahead stronger than ever. It’s not hopeless, it’s just different from what you’ve done before,” sad Professor Howden.
Temperature records show that Riverina farmers today are operating in a much hotter and drier environment that was unheard of before 1950, with higher frost risk, with conditions predicted to deteriorate further if global emissions continue to rise.
Wendy Cohen, CEO, Farmers for Climate Action, encouraged the Wagga community to develop its own approach to growing the social fabric of the area and becoming even more resilient in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and climate change.
“Rural and regional Australia is a key supporting pillar for a strong national recovery post-COVID 19 and post-bushfires, but it is being done a disservice in terms of having a clear and loud voice with regards to policymakers and the media.
“Wagga locals are the subject matter experts on what the community needs in terms of becoming more resilient, as well as driving climate action. I encourage you to keep talking to each other and find common ground across different groups to elevate the work that you do,” said Cohen.
Source: Climate Media Centre