What would a climate-adapted Australian settlement look like?

Adaptation Research Grants Program
David Griggs
Monash University
Year Started: 

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Abstract from final report:

The issue considered by this research report revolves around the broad themes or questions such as: what are we adapting to?; who or what adapts?; and, how does adaptation occur? The challenge that these questions create is that the concept of an adapted settlement encompasses both ‘visual’ and ‘process’ dimensions. Therefore, there is a need to understand how the settlement will decide what it wants to look like in a climate adapted world, and how the settlement is going to achieve this successful adaptation response by (and beyond) 2030. Essentially, adaptation is not something that achieves an endpoint, but is ongoing and responsive to the various impacts that must be adapted to. Thus, there is a need for flexibility, and for adaptive capacity to be initiated and able to continue to change and evolve as required now and into the future.

To explore the research questions, a mixed methods approach was undertaken. The work was divided into four parts, each with different methodology emphasis. These parts and methodologies were:

Research part: Exploration of trends, Community consultations, Interstate workshops
Research methodology: Exploratory research (Stebbins 2001); Literature review; Surveys; Web feedback; Workshops; Focus Groups; Case studies

Research part: Achieving adapted settlements
Research methodology: Triangulation (Hamlyn 1971); Grounded theory that builds a model based on a real world situation (Glaser and Strauss 1999); Economic modelling 

These parts represented different research approaches, both qualitative and quantitative in form, most of which could be understood as exploratory in nature. Exploratory research is a method of research in the social sciences that seeks better understanding of the issues at hand when there is not a lot of knowledge around the subject (Stebbins 2001). For the present research, the methodology was strengthened through the process of triangulation, where data was obtained from a number of data sources (Hamlyn 1971). For example, data was acquired from both community consultation and interviews with key community leaders. The findings from the Victorian case studies were then compared with the data from the interstate workshops.

This research found that commonalities were found in all locations. The adaptation process was only at an early stage in each location, and was being undertaken in an environment of considerable uncertainty. While engagement with the local communities was taking place, there was a common need for a structure to assist adaptation decision-making. Such a structure would enable community decisions to be included in adaptation action and would allow for better communication and integration between the community and various levels of government. This structure would help to promote the sharing of ideas and experiences to achieve the best possible pathways to adaptation. Common principles which could be shared with other similar Australian settlements generally related to the process to assist adaptation, as each local adaptation outcome will be largely place-specific. Drawing on the Inverloch community consultation, a visual representation of what the community expressed in relation to adaptation is presented. Applying knowledge gained in the research process, the research team provided a framework of adaptation tasks that would fit with the proposed governance decision-making structure. Further examination of the timing of the task of adapting infrastructure was undertaken, using an established economic micro simulation model and regional data bases.

View the final report

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