Adapting to climate change

Global surface temperatures have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016. According to NASA analyses of ground-based observations and satellite data:

  • Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880.

  • The six-month period from January to June was also the planet's warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer than the late nineteenth century.

  • Perhaps more significantly, global temperatures are continuing their decades-long trend of change, which is ultimately driven by rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent with the most variable climate. This variability is projected to increase with the extremes becoming more extreme, creating significant challenges for agriculture.

Continued variability and projected future changes in climate have the potential to impact on the dairy industry’s production and sustainability. The overall impact of warmer and drier climates on pasture production varies according to local conditions.

Dairy farmers have already seen the impacts of climate change on their business and many businesses are making changes that are assisting them to adapt to climate variability.

Adaptation to climate challenges can come in many forms. The first step to widespread adaptation is to increase understanding of the potential impacts and then proactively identify strategies for dealing with this impacts within each business’s unique operating context.

Some adaptation steps that dairy farmers are taking include:

  • Increasing stock shade & shelter for extreme conditions

  • Water saving & recycling in the dairy shed

  • Summer crops to fill the feed gap

  • Carrying larger fodder reserves

  • Infrastructure for feeding cows - sheds or pads

  • Upgrading on-farm water infrastructure

  • Fans & sprinklers in sheds and yards

  • Business management - planning for income variability

  • Accessing long-range weather forecasts

  • Watching & planning for global market conditions.

For more information on adaptation and the dairy sector see the outcomes from the Dairy Businesses for Future Climates project and On-farm adaptation options.