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The Paris Agreement commits countries to keep global warming well below 2 °C, and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. How will local adaptation action change in relation to these targets, if at all?
The Agreement was adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and signed in December 2015; it entered into force on 4 November 2016. Parties representing more than 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified the Agreement to put it into force, and as of 11 November 2016 there have been 105 Parties that have ratified the Agreement.
The concept of adaptation pathways is used in climate change planning to illustrate how different adaptation options can be implemented over time. They have been used in climate adaptation planning for nearly a decade and regularly feature in Australian documents.
You might be surprised to learn that adaptation pathways are still an active area of research and development, with new innovations happening all the time. CoastExchange spoke to one of Australia’s leading adaptation pathways researchers, Dr Yiheyis Maru from CSIRO.
The City of Onkaparinga in South Australia has employed aerial photography and photogrammetric mapping to accurately measure rates of erosion and the impact of climate change and sea-level rise.
How do councils track the extent of coastal erosion and identify regions susceptible to collapse? The traditional way is to have staff undertake site inspections. However, that is not particularly scientific – and may even be dangerous. Areas that are difficult, or even impossible, to access may be rapidly changing.
Sydney Trains has developed a climate change risk assessment and adaptation masterplan, identifying the main risks that climate change poses to its rail infrastructure, services and customers. Adaptation action underway includes the installation of concrete sleepers and tension-regulated overhead wiring, as well as lightning protection infrastructure.
Leading the assessment program is Chris Royal, Sydney Trains’ Environmental Specialist.
Adaptation not only reduces the costs of climate change, it can maximise any positives. For example, with appropriate risk management there could be benefits to the wine industry as temperatures increase in cool climates. Also, it is well known that the number of deaths increases in cold weather – under global warming the number of deaths associated with extreme cold weather conditions could decrease.
Professor Roger Jones, from Victoria University’s Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, says that while there may be some positive impacts, the important objective is good decisions in the face of climate change.
CoastAdapt is an information delivery and decision support tool, helping coastal managers in Australia adapt to climate change and sea-level rise. More than 80 per cent of Australians live within the coastal zone. Geoscience Australia reports that about 700,000 residences are within three kilometres of the shoreline and on land less than five metres above mean sea-level.
There are good reasons for our attraction to the coast, beyond the historic ones relating to reliance on ships for transport. People pay a premium to holiday or live in a house that has a ‘blue view’. Many think of the coast as an ideal holiday destination, and coastal resorts are far more common and visited more often than inland resorts.
Long-term climate change adaptation strategies involve dealing with significant uncertainty. However, traditional methods are being superseded by more flexible and comprehensive adaptation pathways approaches.
Adapting to climate change is no easy task. What changes should you prepare for? A temperature rise of 2 degrees or 3 degrees? Sea-level rise of 50 centimetres or one metre or more? What population changes will occur in your area? Is it more important to protect infrastructure or communities? Can you do both? Will there be future technological changes that you need to consider?
Infographics are a great way to facilitate decision-making and catalyse action through communicating complex information quickly and clearly.
The science on climate change is clear. However, there is still a sizeable gap between the call to action presented by climate science and the realisation of action in the spheres of policy and government decision-making, and within business communities globally.
Adaptation activities need to be informed by the best available science, but sometimes urgent action requires weighing up risks. A lack of information is no excuse for delaying action in an emergency.
This was the case at Port Fairy, 280 km west of Melbourne on the south coast of Victoria. The beach is often flooded, and erosion puts around 200 beach-front homes at risk of being undermined. Additionally, sea-level rise and erosion have exposed rusty metal, glass and asbestos from two decommissioned landfills.
You may not be aware, but infrastructure is highly interdependent. Utility managers need to understand where these cross-dependencies are and how to deal with them.
For example, if a storm knocks over a bunch of trees it can not only cut off power – crews can’t come out and fix the problem because the road is blocked by trees. A broken power transformer might stop traffic lights, sewage pumps and mobile towers from working, which creates its own set of interconnected problems.
During the Sydney storms in May 2016, a major sewage pumping station lost all power and was getting close to overflowing.
As avid users of CoastAdapt, we fear that the impacts of climate change can damage tourism destinations and divert tourists elsewhere. But what do tourists think?
Are they really so concerned about climate that we will see a rapid decline in our iconic tourist areas? These questions are the basis of research from Griffith University about tourism perceptions. By interviewing tourists while on holiday on the Gold Coast, insights were gained on the perception of climate impacts and whether it affected decisions about travel.
For example, when do tourists think extreme weather events will occur on the Gold Coast, and how concerned are they about the impacts?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Adaptation Programme’s Dr Xianfu Lu was a keynote speaker at the Climate Adaptation 2016 conference, hosted by NCCARF and CSIRO in Adelaide this year. She spoke with CoastExchange...
At the Climate Adaptation conference in Adelaide this year, a Tasmanian coastal management decision tool was presented that could help local land managers in other States manage and protect their coastal biodiversity.
‘We want to see if others around Australia can add it to their management repertoire, so they don’t need to reinvent the wheel, and can drop in their own data and start using it,’ says the project leader, Dr Eric Woehler from BirdLife Tasmania.
The management tool was developed by BirdLife Tasmania, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, and the University of Tasmania to address the impact of sea-level rise on coastal birds and plants and to help prioritise conservation strategies for coastal assets.
With the public launch of CoastAdapt earlier this year, state governments, coastal councils, NGOs and community groups have ready access to a wealth of information to help adapt to climate change.
‘CoastAdapt is a terrific product,’ says Greg Hunt, Executive Officer of the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance. ‘And with the specific sea level data at a local government level, there is great value for councils as they can see themselves reflected in the product.’
The Shoreline Explorer, for example, contains data for exploring the characteristics of the coast, providing a guide to the sensitivity and vulnerability of the coast to inundation and erosion today and in the future.
Australian researchers are protecting democracy by helping ensure that Samoa’s new parliament house will withstand natural hazards. The new building replaces one built in 1972 that was battered by numerous devastating tropical cyclones.
The greatest risk to the Samoan parliament chamber, or Maota Fono, is inundation from cyclone-related storm waves and surge. As part of the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning (PACCSAP) program, Dr Ron Hoeke and Dr Kathleen McInnes from CSIRO quantified this risk using high resolution modelling for Apia’s coastline.
During the 1970s, something strange happened to the weather around Perth. It became much drier.
Until then, Perth dams had received average annual inflows of 338 gigalitres per year. From 1975 to 2000, inflows dropped to 177 gigalitres. Since then they have fallen further, to under 100 gigalitres.
Last year, Perth’s dams received their lowest inflow in more than 100 years. Run-off into the dams had been ‘virtually non-existent’ since the start of winter, Water Corporation spokesperson Clare Lugar told Perth Now.
This long-term decline is due, at least in part, to climate change. Until the 1970s, rain-bearing fronts swept across south-western Western Australia from the Southern Ocean from autumn to spring. Over the past 40 years, the changing climate has pushed these fronts southward. The rain now falls over the ocean rather than over the land.
It’s one thing to read about coastal erosion in the Northern Territory, but it’s more gripping to see the way that the ocean’s energy is carving away coastal waterfronts. If you can’t do this in person, watching a professionally produced video is the next best thing.
Pam Robinson, former environment and climate change strategic planner at the City of Palmerston, says she set out to demonstrate to others what is happening in the Darwin region and actions being undertaken by local government.
Managing coastal risks and understanding what needs to be done about sea surge is the theme of her YouTube video.
A new marina is an attractive proposition: it brings in high-value houses, increases population and arguably makes a town a more desirable destination. But as an employee of the council, in the back of your mind you’re starting to worry that bulldozing the mangroves to make way for the houses might create a whole host of problems that the council and community will end up paying for. You would like to approach your elected members with a justification as to why mangroves are better than marinas.
Fortunately, a lot of people around the world have faced the problem of valuing ecosystems, and have come up with some pretty innovative solutions. Mangroves provide flood protection, they purify water, are fish nurseries and contain valuable biodiversity. The challenge is to figure out the value of these services, and how that value stacks up against the projected benefit of the marina. Ideally you would like a relatively rapid but robust approach to see if it is even worth mounting the argument.
How do you manage flood risks for a city of 4 million people, with a population expected to almost double by 2050? This is the challenge facing Melbourne Water. It’s a challenge exacerbated by climate change, which is likely to lead to greater flood risk due to more frequent intense rainstorms, and rising sea level.
The Port Phillip and Westernport region has approximately 232,000 properties at risk of flooding. Annual average damage from flooding is almost $400 million.
The next big fad is rolling into town and it is ready to solve all your problems (again). It’s called resilience.
Your organisation has done risk management, it’s done integrated vulnerability assessment, it may have even done adaptation pathways. Now resilience can give you the results you want!
Yes, that’s right, resilience. It will prepare your community for climate change, future-proof infrastructure, and maybe even deflect an asteroid. You will have people coming through the door with their resilience methodologies, tools and software.
The bankers have done their sums. According to Sean Kidney, CEO of the Climate Bonds Initiative, we need to spend $6 trillion a year on climate change action or we will never overcome the challenge.
To most of us this amount of money is simply incomprehensible. Couldn’t we just buy Australia for that amount of money? But to the banks it can be done. You see, the finance markets trade about $60 trillion every year. Shifting this market so that only 10 per cent goes towards climate change action is not such a big challenge to them.
You might hear about islands in the Pacific being lost to sea-level rise. In these cases, the human face of the impacts is distant and, while concerning, does not have direct implications for what is happening in Australia.
However, you may be surprised to learn that a number of inhabited islands in Queensland are already suffering severe sea-level rise impacts. People living on the low islands of the Torres Strait face everyday risks of flooding and, if nothing is done and sea-level rise continues without any attempts at adaptation, the eventual need to leave their island homes.
Often we want to help an individual, group or community to do things differently. Social change is the process you go through to get people to do things differently.
We may want people to think more about climate change, eat more healthily, or be more involved in a committee. One important thing to understand is that it's a misbelief to think we can change peoples' behaviours.
Instead, people must change their own behaviours. Your role is to create an empowering environment and provide opportunities for people to become inspired by what their friends, colleagues or family have achieved. When we offer people a chance to take a step closer to the lives or opportunities they dream about, and we make that change feel safe, then they are likely to make the changes themselves.
The CoastAdapt beta version was launched this week. An exciting and novel aspect of CoastAdapt is new mapping and interactive visualisation.
The interactive visualisation tool, Shoreline Explorer, presents maps in GIS layers to provide a user-friendly way to obtain information about coastal risk.
‘It’s a picture paints a thousand words approach,’ says Jo Mummery, an NCCARF senior research fellow in coastal adaptation. ‘Maps convey a lot of information quickly, in a way people can readily grasp.’
The recent storms on the east coast have highlighted how vulnerable some communities are to storm surge and sea-level rise. The dramatic images of houses and a swimming pool falling into the sea has certainly raised the public profile of the need for coastal adaptation.
The Insurance Council of Australia was very quick to reach out to the media and point out that householders may be in trouble when it comes time to make a claim. They were clear that such coastal damage was unlikely to be covered by existing insurance policies. The Financial Rights Legal Centre went into specific detail about the colour of the water that caused the damage...