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Converging Insecurities: climate, energy, water and food ANDREW CAMPBELL Charles Darwin Symposium, 13 October 2011

Key Points • The age of cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy is coming to an end • The age of carbon accounting and pricing is here • Water security is a looming issue for northern Australia • Food security will be affected by all of these, and climatic events • Each of these has their own imperatives, but their interactions are equally, if not more important • We tend to deal with these issues in science, planning and policy silos • How could the NT lead the way in developing better approaches? 2

The climate is changing……

Predicted climate change impacts, Top End •

Warmer temperatures on land, and in the ocean − Days >35˚C to rise from 11/year to more than 60/year by 2030

Probably wetter Wets and possibly drier Dry seasons

Probably fewer cyclones, but higher % of Cat 4 & 5 − 60% increase in intensity of severe storms by 2030

Rising sea levels (currently 7mm/year)

Increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases

Potential change in range of weeds & pests

Likely increasing challenge of managing fire extent and intensity

Increased heat stress and ticks on cattle (20% impact on beef production by 2030)


Observed rates of relative mean sea level rise (mm/year) over last 18 years +7.1 +7.5

+6.1 +7.5

+2.5 +1.2


+2.9 +3.9


+1.5 +2.3

+1.8 +3.0

SEAFRAME May 1990 Datum +0.3mm/yr

Presentation Title | 00 Month 2010 | Slide 5

Credit: Prof Eric Valentine, CDU

Darwin spring tide, late wet season

Presentation Title | 00 Month 2010 | Slide 6

Credit: Prof Eric Valentine, CDU

1m Inundation

Converging Insecurities Climate change is not happening in a vacuum, but in parallel with other major drivers: • Population growth (on track for 9 billion by 2050) • Changing consumption patterns • Depletion of easily accessible oil reserves − Oil discovery peaked in the 1960s, and oil production is in decline, with 4 barrels consumed for every 1 discovered − 49 of 65 oil producing regions are past their peak point − The average post-peak production rate of decline is 6.7% per year − Australia has been a net importer since 1985, on track for depletion by 2020 8

Converging Insecurities • Climate change • Direct impacts • Impacts of climate change policies – e.g. carbon markets

• Energy — the era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels is coming to a close • Water • Every calorie we consume uses one litre in its production • Every litre weighs one kilogram — energy intensive to distribute it • Per capita freshwater availability declining steeply (globally)

• Food — need to increase world production by 70% by 2050 9

Feeding the world

• The world needs to increase food production by about 70% by 2050, & improve distribution • We have done this in the past, mainly through clearing, cultivating and irrigating more land – and intensification, better varieties, more fertiliser, pesticides

• Climate change and oil depletion is narrowing those options, with limits to water, land, energy & nutrients. We need to grow food: – Using less land, water & energy and emitting less carbon – Improving nutrition, distribution, animal welfare, pollution – Looking after rural landscapes, biodiversity, animal welfare, amenity & communities 10

Profound technical challenges 1. To decouple economic growth from carbon emissions 2. To adapt to an increasingly difficult climate 3. To increase water productivity — decoupling the 1 litre per calorie relationship


To increase energy productivity – –


more food energy out per unit of energy in while shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy

To develop more sustainable food systems – –

while conserving biodiversity and improving landscape amenity, soil health, animal welfare & human health

6. TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE SIMULTANEOUSLY! — improving sustainability and resilience

We need a third agricultural revolution • High level goals: e.g. doubling food & fibre production while doubling water productivity, and becoming a net energy producer from farming & pastoral lands • How to get there? – Farming systems that make more efficient use of and conserve water, energy, nutrients, carbon and biodiversity – Smart metering, sensing, telemetry, robotics, guidance, biotech – Better understanding of soil carbon & microbial activity – Radically reducing waste in all parts of the food chain – Farming systems producing renewable (2nd gen) bioenergy • Also producing energy from waste


– Urban and peri-urban food production – Attracting talented young people into careers in agriculture

Climate-smart land use in the Top End • Managing whole landscapes to increase carbon storage – – – –

Smarter fire regimes Better control of weeds and feral animals Substantial co-benefits for biodiversity (wildlife and plants) More sustainable livelihoods for traditional owners and pastoralists

• Increasing food production for local resilience and food security – –

Groundwater (sustainable yield) and wastewater-based irrigation mosaics Within and near to population centres

• Integrating production of renewable energy – Large scale (solar, geothermal, tidal) for regional centres and export – Small scale (solar, wind, biodiesel, biomass) for households and remote firms & communities 13

The International Dimension • Is Darwin a northern outpost of a continent of 20m people, or a rich southern knowledge centre for a region of 500m people?

• 45 minutes from Darwin, 1 million people in Timor-Leste – ~40% of people malnourished (WFP VAM 2005) – many people seasonally hungry – food production varies widely with seasonal conditions, but rarely exceeds consumption, so imports are crucial – many key elements of a productive and sustainable system don’t exist

• Australia has major opportunities to export know-how – Agricultural education and extension to develop a skilled workforce (professionals and practitioners [farmers & food processors]) – R&D to develop & refine locally useful knowledge and to develop new solutions – Catchment management to look after the best soils and protect water resources – Water management to protect water quality & improve water productivity 14

– Renewable energy systems to become independent from imported oil

Planning landscapes & infrastructure

• How can this all ‘fit’ at a landscape and regional scale? • The landscape needs to be re-plumbed and re-wired • We need new planning approaches that: – are robust under a range of climate change & demographic scenarios – build in resilience thinking (e.g. improve habitat connectivity & buffering, protect refugia) – accommodate carbon pollution mitigation options (energy, transport, food) – safeguard productive soil and allow for increased food production – facilitate recycling of water, nutrients and energy

Scales for response to climate change • Many of the main drivers of biodiversity loss operate at the landscape-scale e.g. habitat fragmentation, invasive species and changed fire regimes. • It is the scale which lends itsel

CSIRO 2010

Northern Territory Climate Change Policy 2009 (

• Ambitious targets – – – –

60% emissions reduction by 2050 NTG carbon neutral in its own operations by 2018 20% energy from renewables by 2020 Replace diesel in remote communities by 2020

• Comprehensive strategy – 9 elements including towns, industry, workforce, waste, communities and living with change – Detailed adaptation action plans for each sector, led by whole of government task force

• Leadership, resources & community engagement critical

Reflections on Darwin & the NT • We are at the end of long, vulnerable food supply chains • Real energy, nutrient and chemical prices (& hence local food prices) will likely increase steeply • We currently dump nutrient-rich waste in the harbour • There is plenty of scope to increase local food production − at household, urban and peri-urban scales − integration with local markets minimises food miles

• And to better utilise waste streams & waste water • Potential integration of municipal/industrial waste with purpose-grown (not weedy) biomass energy crops •

Household energy rating systems need to be tuned for the tropics!

In Summary • Climate, water, energy, food and health are interconnected • The age of cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy is ending • The carbon pricing era has begun • Rural, urban and regional planning needs to integrate its consideration of climate, carbon, water, energy and food • The Territory has both the imperative (risk exposure) and the opportunity (manageable scale, ability to get things done) to lead Australia (& the region) in managing these converging insecurities • This will deliver high value jobs & position the NT economy well



For more information

e.g. Paddock to Plate Policy Propositions for Sustainable Food Systems Managing Australian Soils Managing Australian Landscapes in a Changing Climate Powerful Choices: transition to a biofuel economy

Converging Insecurities  

Presentation by Andrew Campbell of CDU/RIEL given at 2011 Northern Territory Climate Change Symposium

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