Issues Magazine

Articles about Climate Change

Seeds of Life: Adapting for Food Security

By Nicholas Molyneux

Looking at crop varieties and farming practices in Timor Leste is essential to food security in the face of climate change.

Timor Leste has a turbulent history, a complicated present and a challenging future. From the middle of the 16th century, Timor Leste was colonised by the Portuguese. The country declared independence from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesia nine days later. On 30 August 1999, after much spilled blood and staunch resistance for 25 years, the large majority of East Timorese voted in a referendum for independence from Indonesia and in 2002 Timor Leste was internationally recognised as an independent state.

The governments of East Timor and Australia collaboratively fund the Seeds of Life program. Australian funding is provided through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and is managed by ACIAR. The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) within the University of Western Australia coordinates the Australian-funded activities.

Fossil fuel campaigners win support from unexpected places

By Tom Swann and Richard Denniss

If you haven’t heard about the growing campaign for fossil fuel divestment, and what it means for both your retirement funds and for the global economy, it’s time to pay attention - because now even the World Bank is on board.

At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim called for stronger government action to:

divest and tax that which we don’t want, the carbon that threatens development gains over the last 20 years… Governments must put a price on pollution… through either taxes or market-based instruments.

Prosperity or Posterity?

By Silvia Serrao-Neumann

Imminent climate change impacts raise serious questions about the balance between prosperity and posterity and the consequences of “business as usual”.

In his book Invisible Cities, Italian writer Italo Calvino advises the traveller that the inhabitants of Maurilia valued a lost landscape that once existed. He warns that if this landscape still existed it would probably not be valued.

Adaptation to Climate Change: The Case for Agriculture

By Bruce Campbell

Agriculture faces a massive challenge: feeding a growing population under future climates that will be less suitable for crop growth. Much effort needs to be given to adaptation of agricultural and food systems.

Our knowledge about the role of carbon dioxide for global temperatures goes back more than 100 years to Svante Arrhenius, winner of the 1903 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. But it has only been in the past few years that climate change has got the attention it deserves, though there has been little concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Given the difficult-to-attain targets for emissions that will have to be met to control global warming, all sectors, including agriculture, will need to contribute to mitigation efforts.

The Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security is a strategic partnership between the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). For more information please visit

Livestock and the Environment

By Paul Karaimu

As the hard trade-offs look like they’re only getting harder, more nuanced approaches to livestock development are needed.

Researchers say that poor countries can protect both livestock livelihoods and environments by promoting measures such as sustainably intensifying mixed crop-and-livestock farming, paying livestock keepers for the ecosystem services they provide, helping pastoralists diversify their sources of income and managing the demand for livestock products.

This article was first published online at and is a summary of the chapter ‘The Way Forward for Livestock and the Environment’ in The Role of Livestock in Developing Communities: Enhancing Multifunctionality.

Adaptation Benchmarking

By Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship

The results of a survey into the current level of adaptation planning in Australian organisations give some interesting insights into adaptation activity and understanding.

CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Flagship and the Australian government’s Department of Climate Change (DCCEE) are conducting a longitudinal survey of public- and private-sector organisations, the results of which would ideally play a significant part in Australia’s efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Adapted with permission from Gardner, J., Parsons, R. and Paxton, G. (2010). Adaptation benchmarking survey: initial report. CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship Working Paper No. 4.

Seed Selection for Food Security

By Jeremy Cherfas

Pre-selection of crops is an important step towards food security in a changing climate. Projects in Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea are working with gene banks and the traditional custodians of seeds and diversity – women.

Climate change will drastically affect food security for people around the world, and there is little time to prepare. Extreme events and more general changes require farming systems to adapt, and farmers will need new varieties and even new crops to ensure that their growing systems remain productive.

Climate Adaptation: Preparing for the Worst or Hoping for the Best?

By Johanna Mustelin

What does climate adaptation mean for us and our communities, and what are the best ways to go about it?

In Australia we love our coast – the beaches, the surf, the fishing, the relaxing sound of waves and touch of warm sand beneath our feet. We might be lucky enough to buy a home close to the beach and “live the dream”. We enjoy all the benefits that coastal systems provide, and some cannot imagine living anywhere else.

Coastal environments are highly dynamic systems. This might not seem so on a sunny day, but given any amount of storm conditions we quickly see the waves encroaching, the wind setting in and erosion eating away our beaches.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Griffith University.

“We Should Not Farm Anymore Like Our Grandfathers Did”

By Peter Casier

A fast-changing environment forces farmers to think differently.

After his first two sentences, I knew that Joel Yiri from Jirapa was the man I was looking for. I had asked Peter Kuupenne, an extension officer from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, to meet “a creative farmer”. And that is what I found: Joel was a man with a vision.

First published online for the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Program ( and the Adaptation and Mitigation Knowledge Network ( projects of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Reproduced with permission.

Let 10,000 Adaptation Projects Bloom

By Terry Clayton

There is ample evidence to convince many that climate change is occurring. Reducing greenhouse gases remains important, but we had best start thinking harder about how we will adapt to the coming changes.

Public awareness of adaptation, as opposed to mitigation, is only just beginning to dawn. There are at least two reasons for this. For the past 20 years, the discourse has been about greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the leading global body on climate change, actively resisted any discussion of adaptation for fear that this would distract people from the more important task of mitigation.

Terry Clayton’s chosen adaptation strategy is to live in a small farming community in north-eastern Thailand. You can send comments to

Climate Change and Health: Impacts and Adaptation

By Peter Thomas and Tony Capon

The inevitable and continued warming of the Earth’s surface will have both direct and indirect negative impacts on human health. Reducing the effect of climate change on health rests on effective mitigation and adaptation strategies.

There is now little doubt among the scientific community that increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are causing climatic change. The average land temperature in Australia has risen by 0.9ºC since 1950, and modelling shows us that by 2100 there will be an average increase in global temperature of somewhere between 1.4ºC and 5.8ºC.

Direct Impacts on Health

Further information about climate change and health can be found at the World Health Organization’s website:

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Human Health is based at The Australian National University. The network comprises researchers from various disciplines (including epidemiology, climate science, environment, rural science, sociology, economics, mental health, infectious diseases, physiology, ergonomics, health promotion, health services) and research users (policy-makers, practitioners, industry, community). For more information see

First Historic Shipment of Australian Seeds to Arctic Vault

By Crawford Fund

An Australian farmer is travelling to a remote location in Norway to make the historical first deposit of crop seeds from Australia in the Arctic “doomsday” seed vault.

“Like the seeds on their way to Svalbard, Australian farming has gone a long way considering all our food crops are exotic to this country. We have depended almost completely on other countries for seeds to feed us and make us a major force in global agriculture,” said Dr Tony Gregson, a member of the Crawford Fund’s board, who will be joined in Svalbard by Professor Edwina Cornish, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Monash University and Mr James Choi, the Australian Ambassador to Norway.

About the Vault
Crop collections around the world serve the daily needs of farmers and plant breeders in their work to find new traits that can boost yields or address problems posed by diseases, pests or shifting climate conditions. You can find further background on the seed vault at

Climate Change: Adapt Now for the Future

By CSIRO Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship

For Australia, climate change is emerging as one of the most profound challenges of the coming decades. The choices and plans we make as a society to address this challenge will affect our future social, economic and environmental resources.

Times Are Changing
The globe is at its hottest in 12,000 years, having already warmed by 0.7ºC since pre-industrial times. We are now confident that the world will see 2ºC global warming within the lifetime of the current generation. Without firm and rapid action to reduce CO2 emissions, there is a serious risk that this warming could be as much as 4ºC by later this century. Notably, 4ºC warming across the globe means at least 5ºC warming over continental Australia.

Adapted with permission from Change: Adapt Now for the Future and Adaptation Science: Opportunities and Responses to Climate Change Impacts


By Sally Woollett

Editor, Issues

A glimpse into this edition of Issues.

What comes to mind when you think about climate change? Do you think past, present or future? Do you think about efforts to slow it or about dealing with its effects?

Support for Nuclear Energy to Mitigate Climate Change

By Guy Nolch

Editor, Australasian Science

Australia's carbon tax has created a "nuclear spring", with voters now more open to nuclear energy as a carbon-friendly energy option.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, landed herself in hot water with the electorate when she announced the government’s plans to introduce a carbon tax next year. Introducing a tax at any time is a political gamble, particularly for a minority government that had only just introduced a flood levy on an electorate that’s still penny-pinching after the global financial crisis.