Australian agriculture faces extreme weather risk -report

Tue Apr 2, 2013 9:01am EDT

* Australia to see more extreme weather events in coming decades -Climate Commission

* Australian agricultural production likely to suffer

* Dry weather seen across southwestern and southeastern regions

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY, April 3 (Reuters) - Australia's most productive agricultural areas face a greater risk of extreme weather from climate change in coming decades, including a higher number of droughts, a report from the country's Climate Commission said on Wednesday.

Extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, bush fires and cyclones are already becoming more intense, highlighting the need to take rapid action on climate change and to mitigate the impact, the report said.

"There is little doubt that over the next few decades changes in these extreme events will increase the risks of adverse consequences to human health, agriculture, infrastructure and the environment," said the report by the Climate Commission, which is mainly made up of scientists and economists and was formed by the Australian government.

All the climate models used in the report projected "a significant increase" in the number of droughts across southwestern and southeastern Australia, important agricultural areas and with coastal strips that are home to most people in the country of nearly 23 million people.

The Climate Commission projected a fall in rainfall across the two regions of up to 10 percent by 2030.

Australia is a major supplier of food to Asian markets and is the world's second-largest exporter of wheat and third-largest shipper of raw sugar and beef.

Australia produced about 22 million tonnes of wheat in the latest season, down more than a quarter from the previous year's record harvest as yields suffered from unseasonably dry weather in Western Australia, the country's largest grain producing state.

The occurrence of floods in Australia is also forecast to increase due to warmer temperatures, the report said, while heavy rainfall associated with cyclones was also expected to be more severe. (Editing by Ed Davies)

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