Transitioning Australia’s agriculture sector to low emissions is being slowed by an increase in anti-science and climate denial both within the farming community and outside of it, according to a climate action group.
Last month’s IPCC climate report predicted more extreme heatwaves, droughts, floods, warm seasons, and cold seasons by 2030 while also showing Australia had recorded an average temperature rise of 1.4ºc since 1900.
But according to Farmers for Climate Action (FCA) many people living on the land still won’t accept what they are experiencing is a global phenomenon.
Angus Emmott from FCA said: “It’s quite scary really. There’s the certain percentage of people that do understand the science and they know what the predicted forecasts do mean.
I’m no psychologist, but I think people are scared about the future and just refusing to engage with it.
“But right across the western world is also this real rise in anti-science sentiment and it’s just weird. I don’t understand it. It is causing us a lot of grief already.
“I’m no psychologist, but I think people are scared about the future and just refusing to engage with it.
“Even within agriculture there’s a lot of people saying they aren’t interested in climate change. If you change the subject slightly and talk about their climate and the hard work, day-to-day stuff, they love to tell you it’s all changing.
“They love to share different strategies that they’ve brought in to place to try and mitigate that. Nearly everyone on the land is acting on arresting climate change. Even the ones that don’t think it’s actually climate change.”
As world leaders are set to talk at the UN’s Cop26 Climate Summit next month, some members of the Liberal-National party have been calling for a commitment to net zero by 2050.
A central west Queensland grazier who lives past the black soil and in desert country, out in Longreach, Emmott knows the dangers of dodgy weather patterns all too well.
“Australia is one of the parts of the world that is being affected most rapidly by climate change,” he told Central News.
“If the temperatures keep going up and getting more variable, I just don’t know whether there’ll be any agriculture happening in this part of the world. If we go up a lot more, it just won’t be possible.
“The problem is, that is when you get really violent events, rather than just decent wet seasons. You get what happened in 2019, where towns were flooded and then [the flood] went out into the country west of there and killed three quarters of a million cattle, but it also destroyed properties, fences, vehicles, and even worse, it actually washed away a lot of topsoil.”
“I think the main thing is to keep pointing out the actual opportunities that are involved in agriculture [and that they] can avail themselves of those opportunities. Also, putting pressure on our politicians at the same time to accept outside input.”
An Ernst and Young report commissioned by the FCA this month shows transitioning the agriculture sector to low emissions has benefits in income diversification, productivity and market access, and longer-term regional resilience.
What’s happening with COVID is really scary, but that’s minuscule to what the impacts of climate change are going to be over the next 20 years.
Emmott said of the report: “It’s not so much about just the science, but it shows the opportunities for agriculture. When government puts in place good policy and investment in those policies, it allows a lot of opportunities to open up, that at the moment, struggle to get up without that government policy.”
The red meat and livestock industry, represented by Meat and Livestock Australia, have committed to being carbon neutral by 2030 since February last year. While this week Scott Morrison decides whether to attend the COP26 summit and Darren Chester MP has taken a break from the Nationals party room. But the political representatives of agriculturalists don’t always have their best interests at heart Emmett says.
“The policies don’t actually reflect what farmers have been saying,” he said. “A very strong block of National Party members in Queensland are totally mining-oriented and totally against putting in place any regulation on emissions. But then again, you’ve got areas like the Victorian National Party that like to be strong on acting on climate issues.
“The thing that is really annoying me is [our] Prime Minister is saying, ‘well, unless you can show us that it won’t cause us huge grief going for lower emissions, we will oppose it.’
“He [Scott Morrison] is in a position to actually find out exactly what the scenarios are, and actually act on them. So, it’s very disingenuous on his part and it’s just straight playing politics.”
Emmott said it isn’t just farmers that need to take heed, but anyone who likes to eat good food.
“The climate issue is a much bigger threat, over a lot longer time span, than COVID,” he added. “What’s happening with COVID is really scary, but that’s minuscule to what the impacts of climate change are going to be over the next 20 years.”
Main photo of Angus Emmott supplied.