Early Experience and Future Prospects
Edited by John Quiggin, David Adamson and Daniel Quiggin
Chapter 9: Agricultural adaptation: observations and insights
It has been recognized for some time that the benefits of climate change mitigation efforts will come too late to avoid substantial impacts from expected changes in the climate. It has also been acknowledged that scientific uncertainties prevent a firm understanding of how the effects of climate change will be distributed across sectors and locations, as well as through time (Garnaut, 2008; Tol, 2012). In this setting, it will be essential for farmers (and others) to adapt to changes in agronomic conditions that they face over time. Adaptation will be undertaken both in anticipation of change and in response to changes being experienced and the quantum, type and timing of adaptation responses by different firms and individuals will vary depending on their perception of change and its consequences. A key issue in understanding the role of public policy around adaptation is whether adaptation is likely to be insufficient or ineffective if left to autonomous adjustment led by market forces alone. It is well known that agriculture is highly exposed to climate variation and climate change presents a significant threat to improving agricultural productivity. It is also known that Australian agriculture has been engaged in an ongoing process of adaptation and evolution since European settlement. The sector is characterized by many comparatively small and heterogeneous producers, interacting directly with prevailing climatic and biological conditions. The sector continually confronts risk associated with climate and biology (production risk) and market volatility (market risk).
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