Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
REVIEW

Climate change and Australian livestock systems: impacts, research and policy issues

S. M. Howden A C , S. J. Crimp A and C. J. Stokes B

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB, PO Aitkenvale, Qld 4814, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: mark.howden@csiro.au

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48(7) 780-788 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EA08033
Submitted: 14 January 2008  Accepted: 3 April 2008   Published: 20 June 2008

Abstract

The recent changes in Australia’s climate, the likelihood of further changes over the next decades to centuries, and the likely significant impacts of these changes on the Australian livestock industries, provide increasing urgency to explore adaptation options more effectively. Climate and atmospheric changes are likely to impact on the quantity and reliability of forage production; forage quality; thermal stress on livestock; water demands for both animal needs and for growing forage; pest, disease and weed challenges; land degradation processes; and various social and economic aspects including trade. Potential adaptation options are available for moderate climate changes, with these often being variations of existing climate risk management strategies. However, to date there are few Australian examples where these adaptations have been assessed systematically on any scale (e.g. enterprise, regional, whole of industry or national). Nor have many studies been undertaken in a way that (i) effectively harness industry knowledge, (ii) undertake climate change analyses in the framework of existing operational systems, or (iii) assess climate change in the context of other socioeconomic or technical changes. It is likely that there are limits to the effectiveness of existing adaptations under more severe climate changes. In such cases more systemic changes in resource allocation need considering, such as targeted diversification of production systems and livelihoods. Dealing with the many barriers to effective adaptation will require ‘mainstreaming’ climate change into policies covering a range of scales, responsibilities and issues. This mainstreaming will facilitate the development of comprehensive, dynamic and long lasting policy solutions. The integrative nature of climate change problems requires science to include integrative elements in the search for solutions: a willingness to apply integrated rather than disciplinary science and a strengthening of the interface with decision-makers.


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