CLIMATE scientists believe Australia must look at the overarching causes of climate change rather than assessing the immediate effects.
This was the sentiment of South Australia Development and Research Institute Scientist Doctor Peter Hayman’s presentation at Birchip Cropping Group’s ‘Building Climate Resilience’ meeting recently.
Alongside Dr Hayman, keynote speakers, researchers, industry experts and farmers presented to a diverse audience of 130 who came together to build on their climate knowledge and resilience.
“We have these discussions, is this climate change or isn’t it? What’s variability, what’s not?”Dr Hayman said.
Dr Hayman used climate scientist Steven Schneider’s metaphor of arguing with a child at the beach, as to what destroyed the sandcastle; “was it the wave or the tide?”
“Obviously it’s the wave that destroys the sandcastle, but with a rising tide, there’s more waves. The two work together,” he said.
The wave referring to immediate affects and the tide the causes.
He said there’s a divide between rural and metro communities on this discussion.
“Rural communities are really, deeply aware of the wave in a way that urban communities aren’t,” he said.”
“Urban communities are much more conscious of the tide.
“So all of a sudden when there’s a drought or water restrictions, it’s like ‘what’s happening here?’ Whereas rural communities have lived through that for many years.”
Dr Hayman said Australia needs to start looking at the “tide” (causes) when looking to build resilience.
“We need to have an adult conversation about it,” he said.
He said evidence is showing change to the climate is more than just variability.
“There are rural communities and people like BCG and others, have stood up and said this isn’t just variability, this is climate change,” he said.
“How dare we ever back away from that, we need to support people who have made that courageous statement in rural communities; this is something that’s more than just year to year variability, we need to acknowledge that.”
Dr Hayman said when the temperature hit record highs in the last 10 years, people have described it as an “angry summer”.
“We’re running out of nice words to use to describe what’s going on,” he said.
“In 2013, the climate council created this wonderful graphic about the “angry summer”, it was incredibly hot in 2013. Then 2016 and ’17 it was hot again so they talked about another angry summer.”
Director of Climate Change Institute of the Australian National University Doctor Mark Howden asked “How do we manage this onrushing future that is coming towards us?”
He said Australia’s C02 emissions have almost doubled since 1990.
“In 1990 it was about 20 billion tonnes a year now it’s just under 40 billion tonnes per year,” he said.
“We’ve known for over 150 years, that if we put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it will eventually warm the earth, keeping some of the heat in that will otherwise get lost out to space.
“Because we’ve been producing such large greenhouse gas emissions like methane and nitrous oxide, it’s not surprising to see the globe has warmed.”
Australia entered into the Paris agreement with every member of the United Nation in December 2015.
The agreement stated they would hold global temperature increases to two degrees and as close as possible to 1.5C.
This target represents a 50-52 percent reduction in emissions per capita and a 64-65 percent reduction in the emissions intensity of the economy between 2005 and 2030.
The government claims they are implementing national policies to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change in the context of coordinated global action.
Australia was one of the three country’s that met it’s Kyoto target on climate change.
The commitment set out to reduce emissions by five percent below 2000 levels by 2020, which is equivalent to 13 percent below 2005 levels.
Dr Howden said even with these targets, Australia’s emissions are still on the rise.
“In spite of the Paris agreement, which says we need to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions, the reality is we’re doing exactly the opposite, they keep on going up,” he said.
“If we look at our land, our temperatures have already gone up an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The land is heating up faster than the oceans are. We’re already seeing climate change impacts from human influence.
“Parts of Australia were going up just as fast as anywhere in the world, there is no escape, this is a global phenomenon.”
A Wimmera farmer presented to the audience about how he has made his Chicken Broiler an eco-friendly enterprise.
Wilkur farmer Craig Henderson is using solar power to supply power to six sheds where he has around 45, 000 chickens.
He said after being quoted roughly $500, 000 from an energy supplier to install electricity into his premises, he decided to go green.
“Our farm is free range, antibiotic free, there’s no animal protein in their diet, RSPCA accredited and we’re about 60 percent renewable energy.
“We’re running - 215kw solar system, which produces about 1mw per day on average. We have a 260 kilowatt battery storage which you can draw about 60 percent on.”
He also collects the compost from the chickens to fertilise his crops.
“Each shed will produce about 13-1500 cubic metres of litter every year that we put on our paddocks at about eight cubic metres per hectare,” he said.
“So over time we’re building up the organic matter in the soil and that litter has around 29 units per tonne of potassium and 9.8 of phosphorous. All the good things to grow a good chicken is in that manure to grow a good crop.”
“We need to think outside the square and start thinking of this resource we can use wisely. We’ve got plenty of sun, you can make your own power, that’s easy.”