Climate threats to Australia agriculture

According to the Garnaut Review 2011, if global development continues without effective mitigation of greenhouse gases, the impacts on Australia will be severe.

For example, in the absence of adaptation actions and in light of the uncertainty around future rainfall projections, by mid century, irrigated agriculture in the Murray Darling Basin will have fallen by half. By the end of the century, it is likely to have ended, and the area will be depopulating.1

Even with our best efforts, climate change is likely to have significant impacts on agriculture in Australia (though there are differences in vulnerability depending on region and products).

Whilst climate change may indeed provide some opportunities, some of the broader threats could include:

  • Declines in crop production due to changes in average rainfall, increase in temperatures and rainfall variability.
  • Declines in livestock productivity due to changes in quantity and quality of available pasture, and temperature increases
  • Declines in overall productivity due to increased extreme weather events including heatwaves, bushfires and flooding
  • Reduced streamflows and quality of water supply across southern Australia
  • Benefits to crop yields from warmer conditions and higher carbon dioxide levels may be outweighed by reduced rainfall
  • Greater exposure of stock and crops to heat-related stress and disease
  • Earlier ripening and reduction in grape quality
  • Less winter chilling for fruit and nuts
  • Southern migration of some pests and diseases
  • Potential increase in the distribution and abundance of some exotic weeds.

It’s not only agriculture that will be affected. Impacts will be felt in all ecosystems and across all sectors of the economy.

For more detail, see The Garnaut Review 2011: Australia in the Global Response to Climate Change prepared by Professor Ross Garnaut for the Australian Government as an independent review of the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy.

The CSIRO’s report Climate Change also has a chapter on the impacts of climate change.


  1. page 125

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