Experts push leaders on climate adaptation

A lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns Australia’s failure to adequately build climate change adaptation into its systems will be costly.

Victoria University’s Professor Roger Jones, a coordinating lead author of the Foundations of Decision Making chapter in this week’s IPCC report, said it revealed the folly of Australian state and federal governments in downgrading funding and programs on climate change adaptation.

“The IPCC is highlighting the need for sustained and comprehensive risk management that extends through to implementation and monitoring, yet the current official response is either silence on climate change or dismissive comments about these impacts being a normal part of Australian life,” Professor Jones said.

“A planned and sustained response will be much cheaper than a policy of forever writing blank cheques for the increasing damage and loss of extreme weather events.”

The IPCC Working Group II on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’s Fifth Assessment Report has shifted focus from warning about climate change risks to the importance of adapting to an already changing climate.

The report describes widespread impacts occurring in natural and human systems worldwide, including heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires - all of which have affected Australia.

Professor Jones said these extreme events were no longer hypothetical but real issues needing practical adaptation planning.

“For how long are we going to continue compensating people whose lives have been affected by a growing number of ever more severe extreme events?” he said. “Effective decision-making means we have to learn from past events as well as anticipate future risks.”

Professor Jones’ role in the report was as coordinating lead author of Chapter 2 and author of Summary for Policymakers.

He conducts research on climate-related risk management combining science, policy and economics at the Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies (VISES). VISES researcher Celeste Young was a contributing author on the same chapter.

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