Climate impacts on all primary industry sectors and there is significant research underway on the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change

Climate and primary industries

Australia's climate has warmed by 0.9°C since 1910, and the warming is expected to continue. Australia can expect more hot days and warm nights and fewer cool days and cold nights (Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, 2014).

There have also been discernable changes in Australia's rainfall - although the natural variabilty makes it difficult to identify significant trends. The average annual rainfall in Australia has increased sightly since 1900, with the largest increases in the northwest since 1970. Meanwhile the southwest and southeast have seen a decline in rainfall over recent decades, with further decreases projected (Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, 2014).

Changes in climate have positive and negative implications for primary industries. Events such as flooding and droughts can decrease crop yields and increase stock losses. The distribution of pests and diseases may alter with changes in temperature, rainfall and humidity. Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide could enhance growth in some plants, but could also reduce crop quality by lowering the content of protein and trace elements.

Primary producers are already adapting to climate risks. Well planned and targeted research can help with the information needed to plan future investment decisions.

What research is underway?

There is a significant body of work underway dealing with climate risks and primary industries. A stocktake of activity in 2011-12 identified 589 projects with a life-of-project value of $549 million. Of these, the CRSPI partners supported 483 projects with a life-of-project value of around $491 million.

Close to 60 per cent was directed towards production systems based on the best available climate information. This area of research is focused on adapting to climate change, for example, managing climate variability, improving climate projections and adapting to biophysical impacts.

Just over 30 per cent of the activity was targeted towards climate change mitigation. For example: lowering emissions and maintining productivity; increasing carbon stored in the landscape and oceans; and managing energy use and generation.

The remaining investment examines proactive participation in a carbon constrained economy.


A summary document of the research stocktake is available below.


Where to get more information

The CRSPI partnership monitors research activity to guide future decision making. Information from the research stocktake is available from the secretariat.

To look for information on climate research relevant to primary industries in Australia, try the customised search function below which searches a set of climate research relevant websites, such as universities.



Auditing climate change RDE in primary industries