Adapting agriculture to a changing climate

This is a guest post by Dr Gavin Kenny1, a New Zealand scientist who has worked on agricultural adaptation to climate change in NZ and world wide. He has a very interesting and informed perspective on the sorts of things NZ agriculture should be doing to address climate change as it happens — exactly the sort of conversation we need to have on this big issue. The article first appeared in the agriculture section at last week.

For more than 20 years I have worked professionally on the “what ifs” of climate change, focused mostly on what it might mean for agriculture. I’ve done this work in New Zealand, Europe, the Pacific Islands and Asia. During that time I have experienced the progression from the hypothetical to real-world responses. Climate change, particularly as experienced through more frequent drought and flood events, is increasingly influencing what farmers are doing in many countries. It is not clear whether this is yet the case in New Zealand, but I suspect so.

With a record summer drought just behind us, and with negative and positive effects that will continue to unfold for farmers, it is relevant to ask: What if we get more frequent and intense droughts in the future? How might farming change and how might those changes affect wider society?

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  1. Gavin has a PhD in agricultural meteorology, managed a European Union climate change project at Oxford University in the early 1990s, followed by eight years with a research group at University of Waikato. He has worked independently since 2001. []