What does climate change mean for Australia?
Of all the world’s developed nations, Australia is the most exposed to extremes. The storms and flooding of December 2010-January 2011 caused economic losses of $8.6 billion and insured losses of $4.3 billion.
The increasing exposure of Australia to climate events in future will occur in many different ways, with differing effects across locations, and with varying consequences for businesses, governments and communities.
Some examples of the increased climate risks, include:
- More than $226 billion of current residential, commercial, industrial, road and rail assets in coastal areas are potentially exposed to inundation and erosion hazards, in event of a sea level rise of 1.1 metre.
- Bushfire risk is expected to increase strongly in south-east Australia with the number of very high and extreme fire danger days growing by 15-70% by 2050.
- Lower rainfall in southern Australia is projected to substantially reduce water availability.
- Heat waves are forecast to become more frequent and intense, with the number of very hot days (over 35OC) in major cities doubling by 2070. This will have consequential effects on heat-related deaths, infrastructure performance, energy demand, housing design and urban planning.
Australia needs to commence preparations now to address these future climate challenges. Adaptation planning and implementation to cope with the growing effects of climate change will enable Australia to reduce negative impacts and to take advantage of any positive effects.
Climate Change Adaptation
The climate of Australia will change in increasingly significant ways over the coming decades due to global emissions of greenhouse gases. In particular, there are likely to be increases in the frequency or intensity of various climate extreme events in many parts of Australia, including heat waves, droughts, storm surges, floods and bushfires.
These impacts of climate change present substantial new risks for most sectors of business, across all levels of government, and in communities.
Now is the time to address our needs on how to manage these risks and to start taking adaptation action.
There are two main categories of human responses to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. Both types of response help to reduce the risks of climate change.
Mitigation involves actions that are intended to reduce the magnitude of our contribution to climate change. It includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emissions and enhance greenhouse gas sinks.
Adaptation consists of actions undertaken to reduce the adverse consequences of climate change, as well as to harness any beneficial opportunities. Adaptation actions aim to reduce the impacts of climate stresses on human and natural systems.
Adaptation presents new challenges for business and policy decision-makers: it will take time to build the skills and knowledge on how best to adapt and for implementation of decisions to make a difference.
Those decisions made today lacking suitable climate foresight, for example in areas like major infrastructure investment, land use planning and building design, may create greater costs and risks in future.
Useful Climate Change Adaptation links:
- IPCC website: www.ipcc.ch
- UNFCCC website: unfccc.int
- Australian Government Department of Climate Change: www.climatechange.gov.au
- Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research: www.tyndall.ac.uk
- UK Climate Impacts Programme: www.ukcip.org.uk
- Stockholm Environment Institute: www.sei.se
Climate Change Adaptation:
- UNFCC on adaptation unfccc.int/adaptation/items/4159.php
- CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship: www.csiro.au/org/ClimateAdaptationFlagship.html
- Resilience Alliance: www.resalliance.org
- WikiADAPT: wikiadapt.org
- WeADAPT: www.weadapt.org
- Eldis page on adaptation: www.eldis.org/go/topics/dossiers/climate-change-adaptation
- Community based adaptation exchange – Eldis: community.eldis.org/.59b70e3d/
- AusAid webpage on adaptation: www.ausaid.gov.au/keyaid/adaptation.cfm
- World Bank webpage on adaptation: beta.worldbank.org/overview/climate-change-adaptation
- OECD work on adaptation: www.oecd.org/env/cc/adaptation