Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest Australia may have to jettison tracts of the bush unless there is a massive investment in climate change adaptation and planning. The potential impacts of climate change on employment and the livability of the regions have not been adequately considered. Even if emissions are curtailed, Australia likely faces billions of dollars of adaptation costs for rural communities.
Even under its modest conservative projections, worldwide temperatures will rise by 1.5℃. That may not sound like much, but it will double the frequency of droughts from once every 10 years to once every five. Worse still, a 2℃ temperature rise — also a likely outcome without substantial emission reductions — will make droughts 2.5 times more frequent. Vibrant regional communities aren’t just about farms. They are interdependent networks of businesses, towns, public infrastructure and people.
The effect of falls in farm income will ripple throughout these communities. The lower output will mean fewer jobs. If farms close, so will other regional businesses, leading to more stranded assets. Those affected could face displacement along with an inability to sell their homes and businesses. So far development planning in Australia has not adequately considered the potential impacts of the climate on livability, especially in rural communities. This failure to account for climate change exacerbates the potential for stranded assets.
For example, the NSW Auditor-General reported in September 2020 that the state government had “not effectively supported or overseen town water infrastructure planning in regional NSW since at least 2014”. This contributed during the intense drought of 2019 to at least ten regional NSW cities or towns coming close to “zero” water.