Climate change is a major challenge to rural and regional Australia. The Earth has now passed 1C of average global heating, but according to the Bureau of Meteorology Australia experienced a 2C increase in maximums last year.
This brought us the terrible fires and a record drought that saw dams around the country dry up completely.
Farmers worry about whether their crops will be sustainable, struggle with cash flow and debt, and count the cost of millions of dead livestock. Our precious wildlife, tourism and mental health are all under pressure. At the same time, regions are expected to make big changes to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions without much government support.
Coal communities face sudden closures and pressure from climate activists, without plans to support them into new jobs and industries. Last week, it was 150 jobs lost at Wambo in the Hunter; by the late 2030s the industry may be in terminal decline. Worse, our political representatives pretend climate change is not happening and global action through the Paris agreement has stalled. Country Australians would not be blamed for feeling abandoned on multiple fronts.
Last week, a colleague and I announced a proposal for a global "coal elimination treaty" to cut 40 per cent of global emissions and give the world a chance to stop catastrophic warning. It could save millions of lives lost annually to pollution and help stave off the worst climate impacts on farmers and regions. You can read more about it at the Planet Politics Institute.
However, we are also concerned by the lack of practical support for climate and industry transition in Australia's regions.
At the federal level, there is little serious industry policy. Community organisations like Hunter Renewal have banded together to stimulate industry diversification, but are yet to get government buy-in. AgZero2030 and Farmers for Climate Action are vocal, and the National Farmers Federation has called for a net zero target by 2050.
Yet the transition challenges are real. We think coal and logging workers should be paid their old salaries to retrain and industry policy should help regions diversify. Any closures should be planned, consultative and fair, rather than sudden or forced.
Government should stimulate investment in solutions to store soil carbon and reduce methane from livestock. Most importantly, they should sit with country communities and listen to their ideas and concerns, because climate change doesn't discriminate.
Anthony Burke is a professor of international relations at UNSW, Canberra.