Shepparton forum to hear from experts on climate change and disaster responses

A Shepparton climate change forum run by Farmers for Climate Action will hear from a number of experts on a range of issues including water management and community disaster resilience.

Dhurringile dairy farmer Phil Lang, a long-time member of Farmers for Climate Action, said since starting the farm in 1982 he had seen first-hand the effects of weather extremes caused by climate change.

“We think the swings are getting worse, there are hotter temperatures, more extreme days without a doubt.

“We tend to have less winter rainfall when we need it, and more summer rain when we don't.

“In the past we would have been better on average, but now we have severe droughts and heat.

“Farming has changed huge amounts, irrigation water has decreased, the types of pastures and crops we grow has changed and all sorts of weather records are being broken.”

Clinical psychologist Dr Rob Gordon, who specialises in trauma recovery, will be talking about his model of how communities break down and rebuild during natural disasters, and how it could help in future climate disasters.

Dr Gordon said during disasters, people often developed tunnel vision focusing on immediate problems — such as how to put out a fire.

“That's not a frame of mind (in which) you can plan a recovery,” he said.

“My goal is to help people to become more self-aware of how that state of mind becomes a liability.

“People need to be able to plan their life, instead of just rebuilding the things that were destroyed.

“I’ve been working with people who have had things destroyed in bushfires and made decisions they bitterly regretted in the heat of the moment.

“If you run around like a bee in a bottle you might lose the things you can’t replace.”

South Australian Research and Development Institute's Climate Applications principal scientist Dr Peter Hayman said he would not be giving the forum an explanation about how to deal with climate change. Instead, Dr Hayman said his talk would detail how we can factor climate change information into our decision-making.

“Part of it is, how do we think through and manage the confidence in weather variability and the confidence in the climate change,” he said.

“We are expecting a warmer and water-constrained future, but we’re also expecting year to year variation in that, and we need to manage both.

“The first thing is to get the best information, the best forecast and the best climate change projections and understand them beyond the headlines.”

Other speakers include grassroots political expert Denis Ginnivan and Farmers for Climate Action chief executive officer Wendy Cohen.

The Shepparton Climate Change, Water Availability and Community Resilience Forum will be held on Tuesday, June 2 from 8.45 am to 11 am.

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