Wet season to get wetter, new climate report shows
FARMERS are set to bear the brunt of climate changes, according to a new report by the Climate Council.
The council's report Deluge and Drought: Australia's Water Security in a Changing Climate was released yesterday.
Co-author Hilary Bambrick, Queensland University of Technology's head of the school of public health and social work, said while the southeast of the state was drying out, Far North Queensland was getting wetter.
"Where the most change is happening is during the wet season; there are going to be much heavier falls during that traditional rainy period," Prof Bambrick said.
"Climate change also affects people's health in many ways - both drought and flood can contaminate our water supplies and be a source of psychological stress in rural communities, while higher rainfall can increase mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and Ross River virus.
"We may actually see a slight decrease in the number of cyclones but an increase in their intensity.
"In terms of impacts, we've seen from previous experiences with Cyclone Debbie that after the immediate danger of really strong winds and heavy rain, the impact on crops could become even more devastating in the future."
Prof Bambrick said that while farmers would have to rethink agricultural practices and what crops were planted, the answer wasn't as easy as irrigating the Far North and moving industry north.
She cited the effect on banana plantations after Cyclones Yasi and Larry and the impact on tomatoes and capsicums after Cyclone Debbie.
"A lot of crops require cooler temperatures. We couldn't start moving everything north because as well as lots of water, plants sometimes do need cool conditions, and one of the other impacts of climate change will be an increase in temperature," she said. "The Far North is already a hot place and it will only get hotter. One of the most important things to note is the increase in night-time temperatures, which means people won't get any night-time relief."
Australia's long-term water security is dependent on action on climate change,
particularly on the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. Water-related infrastructure, such as dam spillways, had been designed for historic rainfall patterns and were expensive to replace to keep up with increases in rainfall or drought conditions.