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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

climate change not drought « Previous | |Next »
September 27, 2007

I see that the Howard Government is providing money for farmers to walk off the land. Many will take it up as they have used up their equity and have no income. People----especially the National Farmers Federation----continue to talk in terms of "the drought"---ie.,exceptional circumstances--- in this area even though 1,000 families or more are expected to take the package and leave the land. The "exceptional circumstances" have become normal.

Does the farming talk avoid climate change in favour of the plight of drought-ravaged farmers because that would mean no more subsidies?


When people talk about future bush fires they talk in terms of global warming----that the catastrophes we've seen so far are just a glimpse into a frightening future.

It's a schizophrenic discourse.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:43 AM | | Comments (15)


Even Asa Wahlquist talks in terms of the drought. She says in The Australian:

The drought is unprecedented, prolonged, deep and widespread, with every crop hit by the big dry and the vast majority of Australian farmers living in afflicted areas.

She ought to know better --that the big dry is more than a drought.

I do not think that the farmers have connected "the drought" with global warming. Somehow they are seen to be two separate things. They do not make the connection that climate change has made many regions unviable for farming because the rains no longer come.

Amen to your comment.
Farmers are definitely not making the full connection between prolonged drought and climate change. In part because to do so would force the agricultural sector to face the fact that Australia will have to revert almost wholesale to dryland farming, radically different farming practices and crop types, as well as a reduction in farm numbers.
Gone are the days when this country can afford to support farmers on the basis of iconic status, years on the land or family history - this generation has to bite the bullet along with the rest of Australian society.
Howard's years of climate change inaction means that longterm our national economy is stuffed anyway.

The package is a subsidy

What I can't understand is why isn't the NFF helping their small farmers members (small business peopel really) to make this transition. The writing is clearly on the wall with prolonged drought being overlaid by global warming.

Is it because the NFF is a bunch of climate change sceptics?

small-scale family farming is in retreat in Australia. Steadily rising production costs, static prices for produce at the farm-gate, the spread of agribusiness, and the continuing flight of Australians from rural areas to the cities have all combined to erode the viability and attractiveness of small-scale farming.

Now we have climate change:

Wheat crops sown at great expense after promising rainfall in June have withered from lack of follow-up rains, graziers continue to sell stock because they can no longer afford the cost of feed, and water allocations to irrigators have been slashed. With little prospect of relief until next autumn, it is little wonder that many small farmers are worn out and looking to get off the land altogether.

Why it was only last year that John Howard rejected claims by scientists and environmentalists that climate change could make up to 5per cent of Australia's farms unviable, and said that he would not facilitate farmers being paid to leave the land, as
"not only would we lose massively from an economic point of view [but] we would lose something of our character. We would lose something of our identification as Australians as we would lose something of our character."

Both Howard and the NFF are unwilling to debate the wider question of whether or not drought assistance, props up ecologically unsustainable and economically unviable farms in a warmed up world.

I suspect it also has something to do with preserving our rustic, man on the land mythology. Or reminding us of it at least. Battlers, salt of the earth, rugged individuals struggling away at the frontier, that kind of thing. All part of our antique Australian values.

Afterthought: There's the added benefit that less people manfully struggling with the harsh elements on the land means less demand for national broadband coverage.

Off topic....Rudd took a few hits over the last couple of days. Wayne Swan was always going to be a bit of a liability. Thats why he was kept at the back of the picture like a gimp cousin. Marginal seats want Costello as treasurer twice as much as they want Swan. If thats true its a big nail.
The 19 year old story of shredded documents over the rape of an aboriginal girl come back to haunt Rudd.
I read this point as the point where Rudd began to lose the election.

A regular topic of conversation for farmers is global warming. Try to remember however the federation drought was just as bad. Is it another federation drought, is it global warming?

My money is on the latter.

Land usage is already changing, our area ( the westerm plains) is becoming suitable for cropping. The sheep are moving out the headers moving in.

The problem is there are areas used for cropping that will only be suitable for grazing with low stocking rates. Farms in these areas will have to be consolidated.

The average age of farmers is now around 60 years, I think encouraging these people to retire will help.

The SMH reports on a new WWF report, Dangerous Aspirations: Beyond 3degreesC Warming in Australia, written by Barrie Pittock, the former head of the CSIRO's Climate Impacts Group.

Pittock analysed a report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, released during APEC. Pittock found that even with new technologies, greenhouse emissions were still projected to rise 60 per cent above 1990 levels by 2050 if deep cuts are not made. Dr Pittock said the latest report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found this level of emissions would lead to a global temperature rise of between 3.2 and 4.9 degrees.

The implications are that such a rise in temperature would almost certainly trigger an unstoppable climate tipping point. This is the point where climate change reaches a point of instability, causing the changes to magnify.

The consequences in Australia, include a threefold increase in heat-related deaths, the collapse of crop yields and a serious decline in river flows.

Gary, you say Dr (?) Pittock is a former head of the csiro climate group.
Under what circumstances is he a "former" rather than "present" head of that group?

Dr Pittock is the author of the book 'Climate Change– Turning up the Heat' and a senior author of the chapter on ‘key vulnerabilities’ in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which is due to be released in mid-2007.

From memory---see this 4 Corners transcript--- Barry Pittock says that he was asked to remove politically sensitive material from a government publication - 'Climate Change: An Australian Guide to Science and Potential Impacts'

I was asked to talk about the science of climate change, the impacts and the possible adaptations. But I was expressly told not to talk about mitigation, not to talk about how you might reduce greenhouse gases.

One of the subjects was the impact of rising sea levels. Pittock says he wanted to write about how this could lead to the displacement of millions of people in the Pacific Islands and parts of Asia who might be forced to seek refuge in Australia. However, Pittock said:
They don't want that highlighted because it brings in another contentious issue into what is already a contentious issue. But it is an issue. It's one of the possible consequences of global warming. And I think it should be part of the background to deciding what to do about it.

Pittock says he was given the instruction by a bureaucrat at the Australian Greenhouse Office within the Department for the Environment.

Pittock is retired from being the leader of the CSIRO Climate Impacts Group in 1999.

I've just read that Howard,our noble PM is now saying that he believed the continuing drought was was an example of "climate shift", not climate change.

How about that for playing with words by a climate change sceptic. He says that influenced by the work of Shahbaz Khan, a professor of hydrology at Charles Sturt University, who recently likened the present drought to the Federation drought of 1895-1902.

The difference between then and now is man made global warming caused by greenhouse emisions from coal fired power stations.

And out PM has a new message for us on why we now have water restrictionsand why they need to continue. He blames environmentalists for blocking past proposals for dams:

But if some years ago we had not bowed so much to the greens and had built more dams, maybe things would have been different, and that applies all around the country

It has nothing to do with a lack of rain in south western Australia caused by global warming.

It's time for a change.Howard has become part of the problem.


The linguistic trickery of climate 'shift' struck me as a pointless exercise. I know it takes the topic out of the global warming/climate change framework, but it leaves the notion of change intact which begs the question, shifting where?

there is nothing compassionate about paying farmers to endure further stress by staying on the land that is never going to be financially viable.It's cruel to keep them in that situation by playing on their hope for rain.

You know, your explanation concerning Dr Pittock puts me in mind of the difference between media now and even a couple or few years ago.
The 4 Corners episodes of that year also included the wondeful expose of MacBank and the general farce of public infrastructure ppps in Eastern states presented by Ticky Fullerton, who had also presented the memorable 4 Corners on Tasmanian woodchipping perhaps a year or two before.