With all of NSW now impacted by drought and nearly a quarter of the state facing intense drought conditions, one farmer wants governments to acknowledge the role of climate change before it’s too late.
Department of Primary Industries data released on Wednesday shows almost 22 per cent of NSW is suffering intense drought, 40 per cent is in drought and nearly 38 per cent is drought-affected.
The combined drought indicator – which takes in rainfall, soil water, plant growth and long-term climate data – suggests no part of NSW is recovering despite some recent rains.
Less than 10 millimetres was recorded in the western, northwest and central areas of NSW over the past month and drier-than-normal conditions are forecast for the next three months across the majority of the state.
The federal government has announced $12,000 grants for each affected farming family while the NSW government has doubled its funding commitments with a total of $1 billion now available.
But cattle and sheep farmer Robert Lee says these are “short-term reactions”.
“They’re just reacting to a crisis and not acknowledging climate change is going to make this more common and severe,” Mr Lee told AAP on Wednesday.
“The reason all of this is happening is because of climate change.”
Mr Lee has been farming near Molong in the state’s central west for 32 years.
He says over that time the climate has certainly changed with winter and spring rainfall becoming less reliable.
Mr Lee, a member of Farmers for Climate Action, wants the federal and state governments to accept that reality and come up with a plan to help farmers adjust to a warming environment.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair accepts drier than normal conditions are expected for the rest of 2018.
“This is tough,” Mr Blair said in a statement on Wednesday.
“There isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities.”
The NSW Rural Fire Service says the state hasn’t been this dry for a long time.
“We have 48 fires burning right now and we’re seeing more fires pop up every day,” deputy commissioner Rob Rogers told ABC TV on Wednesday.
“That’s the concern with how dry it is – it doesn’t even need the heat of summer.”
New international research published this week warns that human-induced global warming of 2C could trigger environmental processes – or “feedbacks” – leading to an irreversible “hothouse” climate.
Lead researcher Will Steffen from the Australian National University said current global climate efforts were unlikely to help avoid the “very risky” situation and warned many parts of the planet could become uninhabitable for humans.
A “hothouse” climate could see ocean levels rise between 10 and 60 metres in the long-term.