Ask a Scientist

Ever had one of those niggling questions which you just can’t find the answer to? Ever wished for your very own scientific expert? If you answered yes, then read on...

Welcome to the Farmers For Climate Action moderated “Ask a Scientist” forum where you get to pose your question to a panel of highly respected climate scientists.

We know farmers are on the front line as the climate changes and critically need access to locally pertinent information. Current farming production systems have been forged in the face of great climate variability. Climate change poses new challenges and Farmers for Climate Action wants to provide the best science available to our fellow farmers as we plan and adapt to future climates.

Each month, questions from farmers across Australia will be put to our panel of trusted scientists. To put your question forward for consideration, email your name, location, type of farm (e.g. beef, wool, grains, etc.) and question to

*As a moderated forum questions falling outside the accepted science documented in the ‘State of the Climate 2016’ will not be accepted.

Past questions


I am aware of the science that predicts the poleward shift of the global atmospheric circulations, and this research undertaken by the Australian Grains Export Innovation Centre (AEGIC) (2016) that supports our average climates are moving south and have moved around 300 to 400 kms over the past 20 or so years. My question is; to what extent, if any, are the past two summers (NSW especially) explained by this southerly shift? Is this likely to be the new normal?

Jim is a mixed livestock and grains producer from the New England region.


April's answer comes from Professor Mark Howden and Dr Steven Crimp, Fenner School, Australian National University

About our Scientists

Professor Mark Howden is the Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. He is also an Honorary Professor at Melbourne University, School of Land and Food. Mark’s work has focussed on how climate impacts on, and innovative adaptation options for, systems we value: agriculture and food security, the natural resource base, ecosystems and biodiversity, energy, water and urban systems. He has also developed the national (NGGI) and international (IPCC/OECD) greenhouse gas inventories for the agricultural sector and assessed sustainable methods of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Mark has worked on climate variability, climate change, innovation and adoption issues for over 27 years in partnership with farmers, farmer groups, catchment groups, industry bodies, agribusiness, urban utilities and various policy agencies via both research and science-policy roles. Mark has over 390 publications of different types. He has been a major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Assessment reports and various IPCC Special Reports, sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC participants and Al Gore. Recently Mark sat on the US Federal Advisory Committee for the 3rd National Climate Assessment and he participates in several other international science and policy advisory bodies.

Dr Steven Crimp is a climate applications scientist with the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. His role in CCI is to examine opportunities for improved climate risk management, within primary industries, both in Australia and internationally as well as seek opportunities to work more closely with multi-national and global food producers, telecommunications, and other industries in this area.

Before joining ANU, Steve worked for the Agriculture and Food Business Unit of CSIRO, contributing to the Global Food Security in a Changing world research program.


Can you please explain why global O2 levels are dropping? ( What are the implications of this? How is agriculture involved? What should we be doing about it?"

May / June question comes from mixed sheep and cropping farmer, Christie Kingston of Goomalling WA.



Question Answered by Professor Snow Barlow & Professor Richard Eckard

Snow Barlow is a Professor Emeritus of Horticulture and Viticulture at the University of Melbourne. He is a plant physiologist and agricultural scientist, whose research encompasses plant water use efficiency, viticulture and impacts of climate change on agriculture, water management and global food security. His current research encompasses national and international climate change policy and the adaptation of Australia’s Viticultural and Horticultural Industries to Climate Change.

Together with his partner Winsome McCaughey, he also operates a commercial farm incorporating vineyards, grazing and farm forestry enterprises in the Strathbogie Ranges in North Eastern Victoria and markets wine under the Baddaginnie Run label.

Richard Eckard is Professor and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (, a joint research initiative between the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

His research focuses on strategies for reducing enteric methane and nitrous oxide from intensive grazing systems, and whole farm systems modelling of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in livestock production.
Richard holds a number of national and international science leadership roles, being a keynote speaker at a number of industry and international science conferences over the past few years. He is a science advisor to the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments, and the UN FAO, on climate change adaptation, mitigation and policy development in agriculture.