Learning from regional climate analogues

Synthesis and Integrative Research Program
Ness D,
Kellett J,
University of South Australia
Year Started: 
South Australia
Lead organisation: University of South Australia
Principal investigator: Dr David Ness

Background and rationale

A core function of NCCARF is to conduct a program of research that synthesises and integrates existing and emerging national and international climate change adaptation knowledge. Under the Synthesis and Integrative Research Program, an area of NCCARF activity is to explore what present day experience can tell us about adaptation to future climate change: In Phase I, a series of case studies of extreme events, and the associated adaptation activities, was carried out.

These included Cyclone Tracy and the Queensland floods of 2009. The hypothesis is that the adaptation activities which took place following these extremes are analogues for the activities which will take place in response to climate change. The successes and failures of these activities can usefully inform planning of future adaptation activities, and inform thinking around what actions will and will not be effective. The project ‘Learning from Regional Climate Analogues’ is part of this area of activity. Instead of looking back in time at extreme events and the associated adaptation, this project will take a spatial approach to the identification of analogues for future climate environments.

The project will be concerned with policy, process and planned adaptation, rather than behavioural response and autonomous adaptation. The hypotheses are, first, that there are regions of Australia, defined by their location, that currently experience climatic conditions which are indicative of future climates elsewhere and, second, that these conditions will affect institutional policy and practice. To take a simple example, the climates of urban centres such as Darwin or Broome will affect the way that institutions are set up and managed. Understanding the influence of climate on institutions in such locations can inform our understanding of how institutions in urban centres where climates are currently more moderate, for example large southern cities, will have to adapt to future climate change. The analogues do not necessarily lie in the northern areas of Australia. They may, for example, lie in the drier, hotter regions of the centre. By comparing government policy and institutional practice in present-day urban centres with their future analogues, it should be possible to identify differences which exist in response to differences in climate. By identifying these differences, it should be possible to define how decision-making, policy and management practices should change in order to adapt, where ‘adapt’ in this context means creating/maintaining high quality of life under a changed climate. That quality of life should include consideration of ecosystem services, as well as human welfare-related considerations such as appropriate building and urban design and appropriate expertise in primary and hospital health care.