Dr Mark Howden

Dr Mark Howden.

Dr Mark Howden: helping primary industries adapt to climate change

Dr Mark Howden is an expert in the area of climate change and agriculture, working with rural industries to adapt to Australia's changing climate.

  • 11 January 2011 | Updated 14 March 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Mark Howden, Theme Leader for Adaptive Primary Industries, Enterprises and Communities, leads a team of researchers working with community, government and industry stakeholders to enable agriculture, fisheries, forestry, other primary industries and mining, to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change and ongoing climate variability.

He has been closely involved in developing the National Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries.

Dr Howden's specialist areas are:

  • impacts of climate variability and change on agricultural and urban systems
  • the dynamics of grazed and cropped ecosystems
  • development of innovative and sustainable farming systems.


Dr Howden began his research career in 1981 in the New South Wales Soil Conservation Service.

He then joined the Queensland Department of Primary Industries as a pasture agronomist in 1987 following completion of his doctorate with CSIRO in Townsville, Queensland.

In 1990 he joined the Bureau of Resource Sciences to lead their Land and Water Section.

Dr Howden joined CSIRO in 2000.

He has developed the national and international greenhouse gas inventories for Australia's agricultural sector and assessed sustainable methods of reducing greenhouse emissions from agriculture.

Dr Howden was a major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC authors and former United States Vice-President Al Gore.

Dr Howden has conducted many studies on climate change impacts and adaptation, including studies in:

  • cropping and grazing systems
  • mixed farming systems
  • land use change
  • electricity demand
  • water resources
  • natural resource management
  • biodiversity management
  • forestry.

He has worked with government and industry policy groups in Australia and internationally, informing their development of strategic approaches to climate change impacts and adaptation and to sustainable agriculture.

He has worked with industry and community groups to assess practical adaptation options for managing climate change impacts and to develop innovative agricultural, and natural resource management practices.

According to Dr Howden, 'Australian farmers will need to be adaptable to cope with, and even take advantage of, climate change.'

Academic qualifications

Dr Howden has been awarded a:

  • Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, in 1983 with a focus on ecology, climatology and soil science
  • Doctor of Philosophy from Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, in 1990 for his research on tropical grazing systems.


Dr Howden was a major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second, Third and Fourth Assessment reports, the IPCC Regional Impacts Report and the IPCC Special Report on Land use, land use change and forestry that addressed issues of carbon sequestration and the Kyoto Protocol.

He is a Lead Author on the Food Security chapter and a Contributing Author on the Australia-New Zealand chapter of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Impacts and Adaptation, as well as being on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report Core Writing Team.

In 2009 Dr Howden was presented with the Sustainability Science Award by the Ecological Society of America.

Dr Howden is also:

  • a member of the Strategic Advisory Council for the Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security, 2013-present
  • a member of the International Science Advisory Committee of Chilean Centre for Climate Science and Resilience (2012 - present)
  • Member of INRA Advisory Committee for the Adapting Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change Meta-Program (ACCAF) (2011-present)
  • Member of AnimalChange Scientific Advisory Board (2011-present)
  • Member of NCCARF Science Review Panel (2011-present)
  • International Scientific Steering Committee for the Resilience 2011 conference (2011)
  • Member Steering Committee for AgMIP: the Agricultural Model Intercomparison Project (2010-present)
  • Co-convenor, Primary Industries Adaptation Research Network for (2009-present)
  • Meat and Livestock Australia Environmental Science Advisory Panel (2007-2011)
  • a member of the US Federal Advisory Committee on the National Climate Assessment, 2009–present
  • a National Adaptation Research Network for Primary Industries Leader, 2009–present
  • a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) taskforce on 'Food Security in a changing climate'
  • a member of the working group for the PMSEIC, Canberra, Report on climate change in Australia: regional impacts and adaptation
  • a member of the International Council for Science and Environment
  • on the writing team for the National Adaptation Research Plan for Primary Industries, 2009–present
  • Honorary Professor, School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, 2008–present
  • a member of the International Science Advisory Committee of the Netherlands climate change program
  • on the Meat and Livestock Australia Environmental Science Advisory Panel
  • on the Editorial Board of the journal Agricultural Systems.

He has been invited to invited to be a keynote speaker at 37 international conferences and 32 national conferences since 2008, including:

  • International Grasslands Congress; 16-17 September 2013, Sydney, Australia
  • Australian Grains Industry Conference, 29-31 July 2013, Melbourne, Australia
  • National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) Climate Adaptation Futures Conference, 25-28 June 2013, Sydney, Australia
  • Asia Oceania Geosciences Society 10th Annual Meeting, 24-28 June 2013, Sydney, Australia
  • Transformation in a Changing Climate Conference; 19-21 June 2013, Oslo, Norway
  • 2nd International Climate Adaptation Conference, Arizona May 2012
  • National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) Climate Adaptation Futures conference, Gold Coast, June 2010
  • University of Nottingham Feed Conference, Nottingham, September 2009
  • Australia-Sino Research Forum, Guangzhou, China, July 2009
  • World Modelling and Simulation Congress, Cairns, July 2009
  • CGIAR Science Forum, Wageningen, June 2009
  • United Nations' World Meteorological Organization Commission for Agricultural Meteorology Symposium, Toowoomba, May, 2009
  • Greenhouse 2009, Perth, March 2009
  • Managing plant genetic resources in the agro-ecosystem; global change, crop associated biodiversity and ecosystem services, Aleppo, Syria, November 2008
  • Food Security and Environmental Change: Linking science, development and policy, Oxford, April 2008
  • Australian and New Zealand Horticultural Science Conference, Gold Coast, July 2008
  • Climate Change and Animal Production Conference, Campinas, Brazil, May 2008
  • CropScience Conference, Essen, Germany, October 2008
  • National Vegetation Management Conference, Toowoomba, October 2008
  • Crawford Fund Annual International Development Conference, Canberra, September 2008
  • Australian Agronomy Conference, Adelaide, September 2008
  • Australian Society of Animal Production conference, Brisbane, June 2008
  • National NRM Knowledge Conference: Changing Landscapes, Melbourne, April, 2008

He has convened major symposia on:

  • climate change and variability
  • carbon cycling
  • rangelands futures
  • innovative agricultural practices.

Read about the Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship.