Coastal area

Many climate change adaptation options are already in use including plans to manage coastal areas.

Adaptation – reducing Australia’s climate impacts

Reference: 07/143

A greater focus on adapting to climate change is required to reduce Australia’s vulnerability, according to a final report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published today.

  • 9 August 2007

The report, which covers impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, highlights an array of potential adaptation responses for various regions and sectors across the world, including Australia, but says there are barriers, limits and costs.

Although the Summary for Policymakers was released in April this year, the full 20-chapter report, including regional chapters, was published today on the IPCC web site (www.ipcc-wg2.org[external link].

According to CSIRO climate scientist and coordinating lead author of the IPCC report’s chapter on Australia and New Zealand, Kevin Hennessy, while future climate change impacts will vary greatly from place to place, all regions face potentially significant effects.

“There are many adaptation options available and some have already been implemented in response to recent climate change and other stresses, such as plans to protect biodiversity, manage coastal areas and protect the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Hennessy said.

“Australia has responded with the Federal Government establishing a CSIRO National Research Flagship in Climate Adaptation and the Australian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation through the Australian Greenhouse Office.

“There are many adaptation options available and some have already been implemented in response to recent climate change and other stresses, such as plans to protect biodiversity, manage coastal areas and protect the Great Barrier Reef,”
Mr Hennessy said.

“However there remain significant environmental, economic and social barriers to implementing adaptation plans,” he said. “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also be necessary to slow global warming and delay or avoid more serious impacts.”

Key findings for Australia include:

  • As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in southern and eastern Australia.
  • Loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in ecologically-rich sites including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics. Other sites at risk include Kakadu wetlands, southwest Australia, sub-Antarctic islands and Alpine national parks.
  • Ongoing coastal development and population growth in areas such as Cairns and south-east Queensland are projected to exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding by 2050.
  • Risks to major infrastructure are likely to increase. By 2030, design criteria for extreme events are very likely to be exceeded more frequently. Risks include failure of floodplain protection and urban drainage/sewerage, increased storm and fire damage, and more heatwaves, causing more deaths and more blackouts.
  • Production from agriculture and forestry is projected to decline by 2030 over much of southern and eastern Australia due to increased drought and fire.

CSIRO contributed to the IPCC report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability with two coordinating lead authors – Kevin Hennessy and Roger Jones – and three lead authors; Mark Howden, Bryson Bates and Barrie Pittock. Four scientists were contributing authors – Kathy McInnes, Pep Canadell, Alistair Hobday and Donna Green (now with the University of NSW).

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