PM vows help is on the way for farmers
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has played down the role of climate change in the drought ravaging much of inland eastern Australia.
For anyone who may not know, last September Australia voted in a right wing Coalition government. Not a conservative government in the British tradition but a US style ‘climate change is fake because Jesus’ government.
And he has indicated that the coming relief package for farmers will not take into account future increases in extreme weather events predicted in a new report by scientists.
As recently as 2009 the PM is on record saying ‘Climate change is complete crap.’ Now that his Liberal party is in a Coalition government with the Nationals, who have long represented farmers and rural Australia, you’d think they’d do a bit more to tackle climate change. We all know that because of climate change droughts are only going to get longer, more frequnent and more severe so if they really cared about farmers they’d be doing everything they can to take it head on, looking at the long-term effects of climate change on the land.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott met grazier Kym Cramp of “Mount Gipps” station near Broken Hill, NSW, as part of a drought tour with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on Monday. Photo: Andrew Meares
At the end of a two-day tour taking in Bourke and Broken Hill in NSW and Longreach in Queensland, Mr Abbott said the present period of extreme heat and dry conditions – broken in part during his weekend visit – was not unusual for Australia.
‘‘If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150 years, there have always been good times and bad, tough and lush times,’’ Mr Abbott said.
‘‘This is not a new thing in Australia.”
The PM is not a climate scientist or a meterologist and here he is dismissing any link between climate change and this drought. While one cannot say ‘This drought is 4 times worse because of climate change’ or ‘This drought is so long because of climate change’ we can say ‘Every drought *may* be linked to climate change and as our GHG emissions go up it’s only going to get worse. This is not normal for Austrlia. This drought is very bad and we’re only going to see them get longer, more frequent and more intense.’
Mr Abbott at the “Mount Gipps” station. Photo: Andrew Meares
‘‘As the seasons have changed, climatic variation has been a constant here in Australia,’’ he said.
Yes, it has been. But not to this extent. Never in the history of huamnity the world’s climate changed so rapidly. Our agricultural systems are set up for a very specific climactic envelope – a global average temperature of about 15’c – and with every day we fail to act the climate heats up and weather pattens go haywire. I don’t want to see a 6’c world and it’s doubtful that Australian agriculture as it exists today could survive in that.
Mr Abbott, who has previously dismissed a link between climate change and October’s early-season bushfires in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, ruled out taking the issue of a warming planet into consideration when preparing his drought-aid package for cabinet later this week.
So with one hand he gives farmers some money to deal with this drought while with the other he dismantles climate related policies and istitutions and blindly ignores that there’s a serious problem. That doesn’t create the resilliance and sustainablity that our agriculture sector needs. Australia needs to feed it’s own people and prop up a huge export market yet instead of looking at the long term and acting responsibly, this government wants farmers to be reliant on hand outs as the droughts get ever worse.
‘‘Farmers ought to be able to deal with things expected every few years,’’ Mr Abbott said.
‘‘Once you start getting into very severe events – one-in-20, 50, 100-year events – that’s when I think people need additional assistance because that is … beyond what a sensible business can be expected to plan for.’’
A new report by the Climate Council – formed with public funding from the ashes of the Climate Commission, which the Abbott government abolished – says heatwaves are becoming more frequent, more intense and lasting longer.
It says Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide were already experiencing the number of annual hot days that had been forecast for 2030 in the first decade of the century.
The report, by Professors Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes and UNSW researcher Sarah Perkins, said: ‘‘Record hot days and warm nights are also expected to increase across Australia over the coming decades.
‘‘For both northern and southern Australia, one-in-20-year extreme hot days are expected to occur every two to five years by the middle of the century.’’
Those three cities, as it happens, have each broken heat records this summer.
Adelaide has had 13 days of 40 degrees or more, beating the previous record set more than a century ago, of 11 such days. Melbourne has hda seven days above 40 degrees, the most in any calendar year just six weeks in, while Canberra has had 20 days above 35 degrees, the most for any summer, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
The Climate Council report highlights the effect that increased heat is expected to have on agriculture, including reduced crop yields and lower livestock productivity.
That is going to push farmers and rural communities further into debt as they have to invest in seed, stock, chemicals and labour but don’t get the return on the product. There are already far too many mental health concerns and suicides in rural and regional farming communites, and decreasing yeilds and productivity will only lend to this.
The three regions Mr Abbott visited all had their hottest six-month period between August and January, with rainfall as little as one-fifth of normal levels.
Cabinet is expected to consider an extra $280 million in low-interest loans for farmers, among other measures.
Touring the Mount Gipps cattle and sheep station north of Broken Hill on Monday, he said there was ‘‘a world of difference’’ between companies seeking handouts and farmers needing help to get through the drought.
Graziers have been offloading their livestock throughout much of inland eastern Australia as they battle to cope with drought and declining feedstock.
John Cramp, the owner of Mount Gipps, said the recent extreme heat in his region had seen his cattle remain near their water troughs rather than go in search of remaining grass.
‘‘They won’t leave their water, they won’t poke out and get some feed,’’ Mr Cramp said, adding that in his view ‘‘climates have always changed’’.
During a drought farmers often turn to bore water to hydrate stock and water crops. This drought that stretches across NSW and Qld is largely in coal seam gas territory, where the federal government supports putting in gas wells. These wells are known to be risky in that they can contaminate ground water which farmers rely on. Seems as if the farmers are being put to the bottom of the pile in terms of priorities.
It is strange when farmers themselves dismiss the link between climate change and drought. I wonder if it’s because climate change has been branded as this massively left wing thing that only tofu eating, hairy legged lesbians care about? We know that there are many people in this world who profit from climate change and they fund groups such as the Heartland Institute to sow doubt about it. It’s so disenhartening to see that among the people who are most affected – farmers – there is the most denial or dismissiveness. Does that make it up to the rest of us? Do we try and convince them, or just go on doing our best without them?