Listen: Four views on responding to the challenges of climate change

Four respected panellists share their views on the current and future challenges of climate change in this Research Week 2019 event.

Under a 1.5°C rise in global temperature, the natural world around us will not look the same as today. Most species and agricultural systems exist in regions with predictable rainfall and temperature patterns. Climate change challenges these patterns and so, under a changing climate, we must expect that some species will become locally extinct while others will migrate.

Agricultural systems are already impacted by climate change, with active adaptation well under way, including changes to farming systems and relocation of agriculture out of traditional regions. Regional pests, weeds and diseases are also likely to change, introducing added challenges for existing biodiversity and agricultural systems.

This keynote panel event featured highly respected keynote speakers addressing the issues and implications of a changing climate for biodiversity and agriculture. Each panellist provided a short introduction in their area of expertise, introducing key points they discussed with an audience of over 200 people.

You can listen to the event below.

Keynote Panel: Responding to the Challenges of Climate Change.


Professor Lesley Hughes: The climate change report leader

Professor Lesley Hughes
Professor Hughes introduced the Australian policy and emissions climate to the audience, including the direct effect of climate change and increases to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in recent years.

Lesley Hughes is a Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Integrity and Development) at Macquarie University. Her research has mainly focused on the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. She has worked extensively on communicating the science of climate change around Australia.

Professor Hughes is a former federal Climate Commissioner and former Lead Author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports.

She now sits on the Climate Council of Australia, is a Director for WWF Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and the Director of the Biodiversity Node for the NSW Adaptation Hub.

Verity Morgan-Schmidt: The farmer

Verity Morgan-Schmidt
Verity Morgan-Schmidt calls for climate action from politicians, with a view of the bushfires that have ravaged the area near her farm in November 2019 in the background.

Originally a farm girl from the sheep and wheat country of Western Australia, Verity Morgan-Schmidt is a former Executive Officer for Western Australian Farmers Federation. No stranger to advocating for agriculture’s interests in the political arena, Verity managed WAFF’s response to both the introduction of $1 milk and the live exports ban, rallying farmers and rural communities to make their voices heard.

Verity previously worked for Elders Limited, including a stint at the National Wool Selling Centre in Victoria. She is the former Executive Officer for Country Noosa, an organisation linking hinterland producers to coastal communities in South East Queensland.

Verity holds a Master of Arts (Politics) in Sustainability and a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Politics and Global Studies.

Associate Professor Lee Skerratt: The veterinary disease and biosecurity researcher

Associate Professor Lee Skerratt
Associate Professor Skerratt discussed the impact of climate change on wildlife, and the diseases they might carry in a hotter climate. Some of these diseases can spread between animals and humans, making disease control a human health concern.

Lee Skerrat is Principal Research Fellow (Wildlife Biosecurity) and leads the One Health Research Group in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, and is interested in improving the health of humans, their animals and wildlife. His work has shown how their health is inextricably linked.

Associate Professor Skerrat focuses on managing the spread and impact of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) affecting all three groups, for which climate and globalisation have been major determinants. His work has shown that these drivers of EIDs across sectors require long-term, integrated solutions.

The One Health approach offers efficiencies in understanding and solving these shared problems by involving multidisciplinary collaboration.

Associate Professor Skerrat has held leadership roles within the Wildlife Disease Association, the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists and Wildlife Health Australia, and regularly provides advice to government and industry on wildlife health.

He is also the Regional Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) Wildlife Health Specialist Group for Australia – New Zealand and South Pacific.

Professor Frank Dunshea: The animal scientist

Professor Frank Dunshea
Professor Frank Dunshea shows the audience the visible effects of heat stress on dairy cows. These types of impacts harm not just the welfare of the cow, but its productivity for farmers.

Frank Dunshea is a Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor and the Chair of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne and has had a research career spanning over 35 years in farm animal and biomedical research. His main areas of expertise are in growth physiology and nutrition and understanding the interactions between the animal and the animal’s environment.

Professor Dunshea is a respected research leader in the pork and other animal industries in Australia including the beef, dairy and sheep industries. He is committed to ensuring all animal industries operate in a responsible and sustainable manner and much of his work has focused on improving efficiency through reducing inputs and outputs while maintaining product quality and consumer health.

His current projects include: looking at how to increase the value of grains, such as barley, wheat and sorghum, for livestock; the production of agricultural products to improve the health and eating experiences of consumers; regulation of growth and development of farm animals; animals as models of metabolic syndrome; animal and human nutrition; and the effect of heat stress on the health, welfare and productivity of farm animals.

Professor Dunshea is a Fellow of the Australian Association of Animal Sciences (AAAS), Australian Nutrition Society (NSA) and the Australasian Pig Science Association (APSA), as well as a former Chair of the Australian Academy of Science Committee for Nutrition. He has received a number of awards including the inaugural NSA Research Award (1994), the Daniel McAlpine Outstanding Achievement Award for Innovation in Agricultural Research (2004), the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) Growth and Development Award (2009), the ASAS Non-ruminant Nutrition Award (2013) and the ASAS Meat Science Award (2017).

Facilitator: Professor Richard Eckard

Professor Richard Eckard
Professor Richard Eckard introduces the panel.

Richard Eckard is Professor and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne. His research focuses on sustainable livestock production, nitrogen cycling and loss in grazing systems, with a recent focus on carbon farming and climate change response options for agriculture.

He is a science advisor on climate change adaptation, mitigation and carbon policy development in agriculture to the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Professor Eckard leads a network within the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and is a member of the International Science Committee’s Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture Conference. He has published over 145 conference papers, with 80 peer-reviewed papers, seven book chapters, and 80 conference papers specifically on climate change, carbon farming and agriculture since 2010.

Banner image: The panel took questions from a close-to-capacity theatre at the University of Melbourne. Photos: Stuart Winthrope.