The Feds get in behind Dr Salinger on climate change with a call for more R&D investment

Federated Farmers’ spokesman on climate change, Dr William Rolleston, has called for more investment in research into new crops and pasture varieties to deal with the greater environmental stress farms will face because of climate change.

He also said water storage is more than a farming tool – “it is a legitimate climate adaptation tool as well”.

His statement on behalf of the feds (here) was triggered by data gathered by climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger which show last year was New Zealand’s second warmest on record.

Dr Salinger (here) has compiled data from 22 land stations and three islands which show the New Zealand region’s mean temperature last year was 0.84C above the 1961-1990 long-term average of 12.17C.

According to a report in the NZ Herald:

The 10-year mean temperature for 2004-2013 was 0.26C above average, the highest on record, Dr Salinger said.

His findings followed the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s announcement that the Australian area-averaged mean temperature last year was 1.2C above the long-term average – the highest since records began in 1910. Australians have begun the year in a heatwave with temperatures reaching the high-40s.

Early figures had also shown above average temperatures worldwide last year, according to the World Meteorological Organisation, which produces an estimated global mean temperature by drawing on data from three global climate datasets maintained in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Preliminary data from the organisation for between January and November indicated that the estimated global mean temperature for 2013 was 0.49C above the long-term average of 14C.

In his statement, Dr Rolleston said Federated Farmers believes the logic for water storage is now irrefutable.

“Whatever ones’ views may be on the causes of climate change, the fact is it is happening and that means we have two realistic options for adaptation.

“First is researching new crops and pasture varieties in the knowledge that farms will face greater environmental stress. This demands an on-going and bipartisan ramp up in both our agricultural research and development spend and science capability.

“The second of course is the huge opportunity New Zealand has to store rain water.

“Last year, the IPCC predicted that New Zealand could face a future climate of heavier extreme rainfall, stronger and more extreme winter winds as well as longer periods of drought.

“South Canterbury’s Opuha dam, the most recent dedicated water storage facility which started operating in the late 1990’s, has proven itself by insulating South Canterbury from drought.

“It is schemes like Opuha, such as Ruataniwha now being proposed in the Hawke’s Bay, which New Zealand needs to build resilience into our economy and society.

“The constant for water remains irrespective of what current land uses are or what they could be in the future.

“There are three basics to growing pasture and crops and they are soils, sunlight and water. While many countries have the first two, it is water, or the lack of it, which limits food production in a world where the supply and demand for food is on a knife edge.

“Stored rain water provides the means to maintain minimum river flows. Water storage is as much environmental infrastructure as it is economic. Every region should be looking at storing rain water and many currently are.”

New Zealanders could be proud that our farmers are among the most carbon efficient in the world, Dr Rolleston said.

Its leadership extends to this country’s role in the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases and the Palmerston North based Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.

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