It’s been a week of weather extremes. Fires at Hepburn Springs, which lead to evacuations, followed by storm fronts which dumped rain on Bendigo and central Victoria, leading to gutters overflowing and power outages. The week ended with the mercury on the rise again.
In the north of the country torrential rain and flooding have left people homeless, animals stranded or dead and farmers and townies counting the cost in millions as weeks of rain fell in days.
Harcourt farmer Katie Finlay told the Bendigo Advertiser that in the past 20 years harvests have become more unpredictable. She said in the years since the Millennium Drought they have had “the wettest year, the driest year, the biggest flood. It’s ridiculous”. It’s a story that has become all too familiar.
The finger-pointing about greenhouse gas emissions reached new vigor this week as the Climate Council and NASA both released reports on their impacts. The climate council warned we were heading into a “new normal” for Australian weather, where temperatures would nudge the 50s, bushfires would rage and heat-related illness would become more prevalent. NASA published data which pointed to unprecedented temperature increases in all parts of the globe linked to greenhouse emissions.
Farmers, already facing tough times, are adapting – as they always have – to the harsh Australian conditions. Ms Finlay and husband Hugh have set up a co-op to help guard against whatever the weather throws at them. Winemakers in the Heathcote area are looking to start their harvests up to two weeks earlier than normal due to the heat. Some are looking to switch their vines to more heat-resistant varieties from Spain and Portugal - the classic French names fare less well in our rising temperatures.
The ability to adapt will be key to maintaining our food sources. The same goes for our buying habits, which can help keep our farmers afloat. The price of eggs and bread for our breakfast are both on the brink of going up – farmers and bakers can’t keep aborbing drought costs. The question is whether the public is ready to pay that price for food security.
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