Farming profitably in a changing climate: a risk management approach

Climate science has made enormous progress over the last two decades in understanding the nature of earth's climate and the changes that are taking place. Under climate change projections, we can say with some confidence that the Australian climate will continue to become hotter, and temperature-related extreme events are likely to increase in frequency. However, we cannot yet project with any reasonable level of confidence changes to rainfall and the occurrence of drought. So although there is strong evidence for the reality of climate change, there is still considerable uncertainty associated with projections of precisely how climate change will unfold in the future, particularly at regional and local scales where most farming management decisions are made. Adapting to such an uncertain future demands a flexible approach based on assessing, analysing and responding to the risks posed by a changing climate. This paper examines a risk management approach to farming in a variable and changing climate, based on experience gained in the insurance industry which is one of the first major industries to be impacted by climate change losses. Governments, businesses and individuals must consider the implications of a variable and changing climate as a normal part of decision-making based on risk, just as they would for other risks, such as market price and fuel price movements, labour costs etc. The paper also discusses briefly how advances in information technology have enabled information to be accessed and widely distributed, and showcases four best practice spatial IT website tools developed by the BRS to assist farmers and policy makers to manage risk - the National Agricultural Monitoring System (NAMS), the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Rainfall to Pasture Growth Outlook Tool, the Multi-Criteria Analysis Shell (MCAS-S), and the Rainfall Reliability Wizard. There are also several tools under current development in BRS which continue with this theme. These are Water 2010 - National Water Balance and Information for Policy and Planning, the Climate Change Wizard and Climate Change Impacted Data Sets.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-26

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