drought and australian farmers

The Australian government pays farmers during drought and wants to modify the program to help farmers deal better with climate change.

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke says he supports the payments system but wants it to be improved, with farmers given more help to deal with climate change.

“What we want to make sure of is that it can be improved so that whenever somebody goes through a period of drought and goes through a period of needing government assistance, by the time that period’s over, they’ve actually got themselves better prepared and better engaged to deal with climate change.”

Sounds good, right? Actually, if you’ve been keeping up with predictions of what climate change is going to do to Australia, this is not a good plan. This phrase – “by the time that period’s over”- demonstrates the problem. The period isn’t going to be over. I’m no expert on climate change, but a quick search shows that likely scenarios aren’t looking good. Here’s what scientists have to say about future moisture in Australia:

Considerable uncertainty remains as to future changes in rainfall, El Niño Southern Oscillation events and tropical cyclone activity. Overall increases in potential evaporation over much of the continent are predicted as well as continued reductions in the extent and duration of snow cover.

“Overall increases in potential evaporation” means that it isn’t going to matter if it starts raining again. When it’s warmer, more water evaporates and less water is available for plants.  So while we aren’t entirely sure what’s going to happen with rainfall, it’s going to be a rough life for plants regardless.  And what’s already happened is likely to continue happening:

There have been significant regional trends in rainfall with the northern, eastern and southern parts of the continent receiving greater rainfall and the western region receiving less.

Maybe a better idea would be to move farming to regions where more rainfall is expected.  Or find something else for the farmers to do.