On my family’s sheep station near Broken Hill, we are no strangers to using water resources wisely in a naturally arid climate. But the region’s prolonged drought is stretching our community’s resilience to the limit.
We graze an African breed of sheep and harvest rangeland goats – these are among the hardiest and drought-tolerant livestock species around – but even their birth rates are falling thanks to extremely high temperatures. We now destock almost completely over summer to ease pressure on the land.
Every year since I was born has been hotter than normal; maximum temperatures in Broken Hill last summer were 2.1 degrees above average. Because of this, water from dams evaporates faster, and some seeds struggle to germinate – this reduces ground cover and increases the risk of erosion.
Specialised arid flora and fauna that have evolved over millennia are also struggling to keep pace with rapid changes, as open ground temperatures in summer now reach up to 75 degrees.
As someone who hopes to take on the family farm one day, I am deeply worried about predictions that climate change will make the region hotter and drier.
Many solutions already exist, and with greater commitment in tackling these complex problems, we have better hope of ensuring resiliency and sustainability in fragile farming systems.
I am encouraged by the government’s recent “listening and learning” tour of drought-stricken areas and acknowledgement that climate change is a “real issue we need to address”.
However, for farmers living the harsh reality of climate change right now, acceptance is not as useful as action. We need immediate and decisive steps to tackle Australia’s rising emissions, and to drive the shift to clean energy, both locally and globally.