Australian Research on Climate Risk


This section provides a short summary of work by Australian researchers who are exploring how to use climate risk information in agricultural planning.

In Australia, there are a range of tools that can help in risk assessment, many of which build on the basic climate risk information to assess likely outcomes for pasture, crops or general production levels. News and information on risk tools, as well as the latest research, are available from Managing Climate Variability (MCV) Land and Water Australia, CSIRO and from Federal and State departments of agriculture, fisheries and forestry (primary industries). Much research is also focused upon how a changing climate will change the risk profile for many regions.

Current Australian research

Australian research on climate risk covers many aspects of agriculture. These research areas include:

  • Improving climate prediction tools by developing user friendly outputs and improving the accuracy of the outlooks;
  • Improving the agricultural simulation tools and ensuring they can be used in different regions, as well as developing or adapting tools to suit a wider range of commodities;
  • Developing and improving financial risk tools that can be used with the outputs from the agricultural tools;
  • Assessing the impact of climate variability on historical farm incomes, how this varies from region to region and enterprise type and the causal factors;
  • Improving access to information and participatory methods of learning, planning and decision making; and
  • Research on the possible impact of climate change on Australian agriculture and on seasonal climate prediction systems.

Agricultural simulation tools

Research has shown that managing climate risk can be enhanced by combining climate information with specific agricultural decision support tools. Information on a range of such tools will soon be available from the Managing Climate Variability program. Taking the time to investigate which tool is right for your location and industry can make a significant difference to your climate risk management.
The following table shows a structured approach to using agricultural decision support tools.

Task Information sources Output Research is showing that:

Check likelihood of El Niño over the next few seasons

El Niño prediction models, e.g., the POAMA model from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO

Broad climate picture for coming months

Looking at several models can be better than using one model alone

Check seasonal outlook for rainfall and temperature

Outlooks from the Bureau of Meteorology and Queensland EPA

Seasonal climate scenarios

Seasonal outlooks are best used in concert with information on existing soil moisture and other local crop drivers

Use agricultural simulation tool(s) to make a best informed farming decision

Current farm status (pasture condition, soil moisture, etc) and seasonal outlook information

Likely agricultural outcomes

These tools add value to the basic climate information, and result in better decisions over the longer term

Consider information in the context of external influences upon farm profit

Commodity information (e.g. market prices) available from sources such as ABARE

Knowledge of the financial implications of potential crop outcome

Regular participation in workshops that integrate this information is often helpful. Workshops and similar participatory assessment methods can include scientists from service agencies, agricultural extension officers and others with risk expertise.

A special issue of the Australian Journal of Agricultural Research was produced in 2007 devoted to climate predictions and agricultural tools for better agricultural risk management (reference: Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, Volume 58, Number 10, 2007).

Climate and environmental change

Climate change adds an extra risk component that needs to be included when planning for the longer term. Research suggests that as climate changes, the environment (e.g., plant types, fire, pests and diseases) will also change. Impacts are not all bad for farming, there are some benefits too. For instance, increased CO2 concentration (and hence increased plant fertilisation), and 1-3°C warming, is modeled to produce small increases in crop yield. However such an increase is water dependent, and would only occur if rainfall is not greatly reduced; a 10% reduction in rainfall cancels out any CO2 benefits.

The latest assessments on likely climate change for Australia have been published by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO in the report titled Climate Change in Australia.

The CSIRO climate adaptation flagship, is researching ways agriculture can manage risk by adapting to a changing climate. For instance, to avoid the damage that a 1°C to 2°C rise in air temperatures may cause, research suggests a number of practical adaptations are possible, including changing the timing of plantings or the varieties or species of crops grown.

The CSIRO has released a report which offers a national overview of options available for Australian agriculture in the face of climate change risk.
This is available from: Climate change adaptation options for Australian agriculture


Additional Reading

Weather Derivatives

Managing Climate Variability site

This page is produced with the support of Managing Climate Variability - a consortium of primary industry research and development corporations.