Climate change impacts from field to schooner
September 19, 2014 (Sydney) – Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne has paid a visit to Newtown brewery Young Henry’s, for a roundtable discussion about the impacts of climate change on the beer industry.
“Food security is a big issue for me and I’ve been talking endlessly about it in the Senate,” said Senator Milne.
“A greater number of more extreme weather events are already threatening Australia’s agricultural production, which will have serious impacts on everything from community peace, to community health and even the taste of your beer.”
Senator Milne told the group, including Young Henry’s head brewer Richard Adamson and Greens candidate in the NSW Electorate of Newtown Jenny Leong, that the first Arab Spring marches in Tunisia were bread marches – a reaction to a shortage of access to grain.
“The 21st Century will be the century of the politics of food, and climate change is going to be central to that,” said food security expert Dr Bill Pritchard from the University of Sydney, who joined the discussion at Young Henry’s.
“The IPCC has projected with high confidence that we’ll be seeing major disruption to food security by 2030. It’s not just what will be happening to agricultural yield; it’s the follow-on effects in terms of political and social instability,” said Dr Pritchard.
Peter Gous, a researcher from the University of Queensland on drought and temperature resilient barley varieties, told the group Australia’s biggest problem is a lack of funding for more work like his.
“We need research funds. Sadly, when I finish, I’m leaving the country because there are no prospects for me in Australia. There’s just not enough government support to drive essential research and development.”
“In the beer example, we don’t just have to breed grain varieties for better starch and flavour, we actually have to look at disease resistance, drought tolerance and how that impacts quality.
“If a resilient crop has a negative impact on taste, then you have to start choosing whether you want quality or quantity,” said Mr Gous.
“We should be investing heavily in agricultural research and development, because in Australia we need to undertake a massive shift,” said Senator Milne.
“We need to make sure relief funding for extreme weather events and drought is tied to adaptation and transformation, otherwise you’re paying people to continue with a business-as-usual approach and condemning them to suffer the same expensive, demoralising failure just years later.
“It’s short-changing the future in Australia to underfund research, if we can’t get from where we are to where we need to be,” said Senator Milne.