How climate change is driving Australian farmers mad

Farming is arguably one of the most risky business as out there, but also one of the noblest. Everybody has to eat, but for all their efforts farmers can easily lose a year’s worth of crops due to a dry season or some other freak weather event. And as climate change intensifies, so does the stress on farmers and their crops. Australian researchers interviewed 22 farmers from Newdegate, found in the country’s southwest, to see how their mental health fares under ever worsening farming conditions. Needless to say, the study paints a grim picture. These lands are not only their workplace, but also their homes – for some, it has been this way for generations. Yet, many farmers in Australia and likely many other climate change plagued parts of the world have an ever difficult time seeing a bright future. They’re all in a terrible shape, it seems.

australian farmers


“The farms are more than just a business for these farmers – it’s their home, their personal history. There is no escape if they have a bad day at work,” said Neville Ellis from the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability. “Some I talked to had become completely disengaged from the predictions and the forecasts – they shut themselves off in their properties with the curtains drawn so they wouldn’t have to face the realities outside.”

Ellis and other colleagues at Murdoch University interviewed the farmers in 2013 and 2014, which proved to be some of the most driest and warmest on record in Southwestern Australia. The variable weather is, apparently, breaking down their mental health.

“The South West [sic] of Western Australia has experienced abrupt and severe climate change in the last forty years,” Ellis said. “Farmers have always worried about the weather but today that worry is becoming detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing. They feel they have less ability to exert control over their farmlands and as a result are fearful for their future.”

Since the 1970s rainfall during the Australian winter has fallen by 20%, while average temperatures rose by nearly a degree. The extra heat brought more heatwaves, frosts and droughts which ruined crops from Australian farmers time and time again.

According to Ellis, the Australian farmers would check weather forecast websites even up to 30 times a day for signs of rain.  “I also met farmers who track storm systems off the horn of Africa in the hope that the rain will arrive ten days later,” Ellis said.

Ellis believes Australian farmers should be counseled and receive support from professional health agencies. “Unfortunately, with all the projections predicting our climate will get hotter and drier, it is only going to get harder for many of these farmers,” said Mr Ellis.

Australia is one of the most vulnerable places in the world. According to a report released in 2015 by  CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, there’s “very high confidence” that average annual temperature will be 1.3C warmer in 2030 compared with the average experienced between 1986 and 2005. In a business-as-usual scenario, meaning the world goes about the current carbon emission trend, then Australia could see between 2.8C and 5.1C of warming by 2090. The effects on agriculture alone would be tremendously dreadful.


3 thoughts on “How climate change is driving Australian farmers mad

  1. Jonathan Kolber

    The government of Australia, or a private group, could remedy this problem in multiple ways. For example, they could use permaculture techniques to change local ecosystems to include more diverse plant life and capture and hold water. The video, Greening the Desert, shows a particularly striking experiment that deserves independent verification and, following such verification, massive duplication.

    Likewise, much of coastal Australia offers promising location for an OTEC plant. While the investment required is considerable, a functioning OTEC plant will generate massive quantities of fresh water, as well as sustainable power and other benefits. A functioning system was recently inaugurated in Hawaii. (

    These are but two of the many technologies now available to sustainably address worldwide shortages of clean water, clean energy and other 21st century needs. They are documented in my new book, A Celebration Society. (

  2. Veronica Clarke

    Sadly the government of Australia don’t give a toss about this or any other climate change issue.

  3. Pingback: BoM climate report finds 2015 among top five hottest years for Australia

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