To John Crawford, the role of economics was to illuminate real world conditions and improve policy options. At a time of historic change in climate and Australia’s international environment, we need Crawford’s approach to economics as never before. Growth in global population and incomes, and climate change, are putting pressure on land and water resources. Transformation of land use and food consumption are important dimensions of the response to climate change. Australian research skills in agriculture, biology, botany, engineering and economics can secure the Australian transformation and extend it internationally. The challenges of climate change are especially acute and the opportunities exceptionally large in Australia. The drying and warming of southern Australia is undermining established agricultural and pastoral activities. But rural and provincial Australia have global comparative advantage of considerable value in activities the value of which will be greatly increased in the zero-carbon emissions world that is necessary to limit damage from climate change: renewable energy resources; opportunities for biomass production as a zero-emissions source of inputs into industrial activities; and the opportunity for sequestration of carbon in Australian soils, pastures, woodlands and savannahs, and forests.