August 14, 2012
Climate change policy is usually understood in terms of cutting the carbon pollution from coal-fired power stations and from cars, trucks and other modes of fossil-fuelled transport and making the shift to renewable energy. According to this briefing paper increasing the amount of renewable energy in our electricity supply system, or increasing patronage of public transport would act to reduce the health-damaging pollution from these sources while also reducing greenhouse gases.
At a public policy level it is also about dealing with the consequences of climate change that are starting to effect Australia. One consequence that affects South Australia is lower rainfall in the Murray-Darling Basin. Hence the need for a climate adaptation strategy to deal with the consequences of less water in the Basin.
Another consequence of climate change is rising sea levels along the coastline. Around 80 per cent of the Australian population live in the coastal zone and the concentration of Australia’s population and infrastructure along the coast makes us particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, especially sea level rise.
We have some acknowledgment of the effects of climate change in the form of rising sea levels on the coastline of South Australia. Adam Gray, the senior policy officer at the LGASA, has argued in a submission to a Productivity Commission inquiry into Australia's preparation for climate change that a "retreat" from some foreshore areas on the South Australian coastline because of rising sea levels is a reality.
It's not feasible to protect any longer. We're also talking about retreat, and so no longer are we going to be able to say to some of our community members that enjoy the views on our esplanades that this land is still going to be here in 50 to 80 years. Protection works are only going to get us so far.
The most vulnerable sites in the state are older canal developments along the coast. Other areas considered vulnerable by previous reports are Port Augusta, where a levee protects some of the town, Hindmarsh Island, Robe, parts of the West Torrens Council area, St Kilda, Tumby Bay, parts of Holdfast Bay, Port Pirie, and the cliffs at Port Willunga.
The Productivity Commission ---has published an issues paper in its inquiry into Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation. This states that Australia’s climate is projected to change significantly over the next century. Estimates suggest an increase in annual average temperature of between 1.8°C and 3.4°C on 1990 levels by 2070.
It adds that while the magnitude and timing of climate change will depend on future emissions, the potential impacts are significant, wide ranging and uncertain. These include:
· Sea-level rise coupled with storm surges could lead to increased erosion and flooding for coastal properties and infrastructure, and a loss of beaches.
· Increases in the intensity and/or frequency of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, hailstorms and bushfires may place at risk public infrastructure, private property, human health and safety, and economic output.
· Higher temperatures and other factors could impact human health, for example, by increasing risks associated with the transmission of mosquito-borne, food-borne and water-borne infectious diseases.
· Reduced rainfall and higher evaporation rates could negatively affect water supply in many parts of Australia.
· A range of competing factors could have positive or negative effects on agriculture, which could vary significantly by commodity and region.
· Higher sea surface temperatures may lead to more frequent mass coral bleaching, causing loss of habitat and biodiversity in marine ecosystems with flow-on effects for coastal tourism. Higher temperatures, more variable rainfall and a range of related factors could also lead to significant loss of habitat and biodiversity in other ecosystems.
Effective adaptation may help to manage these impacts. By climate change adaptation the Commission means actions to adjust to climate change and this is understood as likely to involve reducing the harmful impacts of climate change, but in some cases it may also mean exploiting potential benefits.