The senator of the Greens Janet Rice Grilled the Department of Agriculture on the work done to model the future effects of climate change, including the four-degree heating scenario.
Rice said the department should model the impact on agriculture based on the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts that had warned of warmer conditions for many years.
The department secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, said the department is working on the issue and has set up a new division focused on climate adaptation and resilience.
“Australian farmers have adapted to the Australian climate for decades – this is not a new phenomenon, we have noticed this trend towards warming and drying across the country for some time,” said Metcalfe.
But he said the department was not using the specific four-degree temperature rise.
His deputy Matt Cahill, who is responsible for managing natural disasters, said the department is doing work that acknowledged that there would be changes in the Australian landscape due to climate change, but that it could vary across the country.
“Our goal is to be able to support it, I think that unilaterally looking at a scenario for the entire Australian continent will not help us to be able to adapt Australia, and therefore we are examining what practices need to be put in place depending on where you are in Australia, “said Cahill.
Rice said the changing conditions would have a significant impact on wheat and dairy farmers, whose activities may no longer be viable.
“This is staring us in the face and what I want to know is what your department is doing in terms of information to your stakeholders, telling the truth to Australian farmers that this is the future we are facing.”
The liberal senator Anne Ruston accused Rice of a “doomsday”. “It’s not a doomsday, it’s a reality,” Rice said.
In response, Ruston said the government was “well aware” of climate change.
“The government recognizes that we have a changing climate, and we have committed significant funds to a range of initiatives to address both the impact on our agricultural community and the impact on our environment … to make sure we build resilience and adaptation in our communities to make sure they can deal with changes in our climate. “