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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

‘Climate adaptation by itself is not enough’: the latest IPCC report instalment

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Brought to you by Cosmos Magazine and The Echo

The second of three reports shows our vulnerabilities and how we can protect them.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is responsible for the most comprehensive body of scientific information on climate change.

In the next part of its Sixth Assessment Report, released 28 February, the IPCC has examined the world population’s vulnerability to climate change, and what must be done to adapt to current and future changes.

It’s the second of three sections of this report (Working group II) – Working Group I’s sectionreleased last August, demonstrates that anthropogenic climate change is continuing, while Working Group III’s component, on mitigation, will be released in April. An overall report is coming in September.

The IPCC reports represent a phenomenal amount of work from hundreds of researchers and government officials. It synthesises information from over 10,000 studies, with over 62,000 comments from expert peer reviewers.

Literally every sentence of the summary for policymakers has been agreed upon by consensus from a group of experts and government delegations – the line-by-line approval process alone takes a fortnight. The report in its entirety is a product of several years.

Given the time and expertise involved in making the report, its conclusions aren’t revelatory: the world is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, poorest people are often the most at risk, and adaptation to these effects will force changes in our lifestyle, infrastructure, economy and agriculture.

Man pedals bike through Ballina floodwaters, River Street, 1 March 2022. Photo David Lowe.

While adaptation is necessary, it’s also insufficient. ‘It’s increasingly clear that the pace of adaptation across the globe is not enough to keep up with climate change,” says Professor Mark Howden, Working Group II’s vice-chair and director of the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions at the Australian National University.

Under the IPCC’s projected emissions scenarios, the climate could warm much more or slightly more, based on the volume of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere.

‘Depending on which of those trajectories we go on, our adaptation options differ,” says Howden.

On our current, business-as-usual trajectory, we can’t avoid the crisis, no matter how much we change our human systems to prepare for or recover from the ravages of climate change.

‘Climate adaptation, risk management, by itself is not enough,’ says Howden.

The report comes at a pertinent time for Australia, as southern Queensland and northern New South Wales experience dramatic flooding from high, La Niña-related rainfall.

‘One of the clear projections is an increase in the intensity of heavy rainfall events,’ says Professor Brendan Mackey, director of National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility at Griffith University, and a lead author on the Australasian chapter of the report.

Man and woman near Lismore floodwaters
Lismore floodwaters receding, 2 March 2022. Looking down Uralba Street towards flooded CBD. Photo David Lowe.

Mackey also notes that he has extended family members in Lismore, NSW, who today needed to be rescued from their rooftops as the town floods.

Howden says that while it’s hard to link individual disasters to climate change as they occur, he agrees that there are more floods projected for northern Australia.

‘I think we can say that climate change is already embedded in this event,’ adds Howden.

‘These events are driven by, particularly, ocean temperatures, and we know very well that those have gone up due to climate change due to human influence.’

He points out that flooding is a common side effect of a La Niña event, of which more are expected as the climate warms.

Flooding is not the only extreme weather event that can be linked to climate change.

‘We’ve observed further warming and sea level rise, we’ve observed more flood days and heat waves, we’ve observed less snow,’ says Mackey.

‘Interestingly, [we’ve observed] more rainfall in the north, less winter rainfall in the southwest and southeast, and more extreme fire weather days in the south and east.’

All of these trends are expected to continue, especially under high-emissions scenarios.

Fire fighters battling flames on the Woombah to Iluka road in November 2019 during the Black Summer fires. Photo Ewan Willis.

For Australians, the predictions the IPCC has made with very high or high confidence include: both a decline in agricultural production and increase in extreme fire weather across the south of the continent; a nation-wide increase in heat-related mortality; increased stress on cities, infrastructure and supply chains from natural disasters; and inundation of low-lying coastal communities from sea level rise.

There’s also high confidence that lower snowfall will reduce alpine biodiversity. Forest ecosystems (alpine ash, snow-gum woodland, pencil pine and northern jarrah) in southern Australia will transition or collapse, and heatwaves and sea level rise will damage other land ecosystems. Marine heatwaves are expected to damage or destroy coral reefs and kelp forests, again with high or very high confidence.

The back to back massive coral bleaching events of 2016 and 2017 devastated nearly half of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo supplied.

The final high-confidence prediction is that Australian institutions and governments aren’t currently able to manage these risks.

‘Climate change impacts are becoming more complex and difficult to manage,’ says Professor Lauren Rickards, director of the Urban Futures Enabling Capability Platform at RMIT, also a lead author on the Australasian chapter.

‘Not only are climatic hazards becoming more severe – including, sometimes, nonlinear effects such as, for example, tipping over flood levees that have historically been sufficient – but also those climatic hazards are intersecting in very, very complex ways. And in turn, the flow-on effects on the ground are interacting, causing what’s called cascading and compounding impacts.’

She adds that many local and state governments and the private sector have both recognised the importance of changing their practices to prepare for or react to climate extremes.

A washing machine lodged in powerlines in Lismore, approximately 6 meters from ground level.

‘We have these systems, these infrastructural systems – energy, transport, water, communications, for example – and it’s the need to adapt those at the base of a lot of the adaptation that’s needed,’ says Rickards.

Australia is missing a large investment in research on how different places and systems can adapt to the changing climate.

‘We’ve seen a really significant reduction in the research into what actions different individuals, communities, sectors, can take,’ says Howden.

‘And what that means is we don’t have the portfolio of options available for people in a way that is easily communicable, and easily understood, and easily adopted.’

Without this research, as well as work from local and Indigenous experts, some adaptations can even risk worsening the impacts of climate change.

‘The evidence that we’ve looked at shows really clearly that adaptation strategies, when they build on Indigenous and local knowledge and integrate science, that’s when they are most successful,’ says Dr Johanna Nalau, leader of the Adaptation Science Research Theme at Cities Research Institute, Griffith University.

While the risks Australia faces are dramatic, things are much worse for other parts of the world. Nalau, who was a lead author on the report’s chapter on small islands, says that ‘most of the communities and countries are constrained in what they can do in terms of adaptation’.

In April, we will have access to the IPCC’s dossier on mitigating climate change and emissions reduction. But in the meantime, Working Group II’s battalion of researchers advocate for better planning for climate disaster, more research into ways human systems can adapt, sustainable and just development worldwide, and rapid emissions reduction.

‘Adaptation can’t be divorced from mitigation, conceptually or in practice,’ says Rickards.

‘We need adaptation to enable effective mitigation. We need effective mitigation to enable adaptation to give it a chance of succeeding. At present, we’re not on track and we need to pivot quickly.’


This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Ellen Phiddian. Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.

Published by The Echo in conjunction with Cosmos Magazine.


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33 COMMENTS

  1. Blah blah blah blah meh..what a crock..if mm climate change is to blame why did billi flood LESS this time than last..why did the water on the nepean NOT go higher than 17?

    • Bob, 100%.
      Now / NEVER is the time to talk about climate. It all an ‘Arc of Autocracy’ hoax.
      Wilsons River at Lismore peaking at 14.4 metres an all time record is just bollocks. We all know it flooded bigger before the white fella arrived, yeah.
      Lets get stuck in and rebuild exactly like it was before this current event, it is never gonna happen again.

  2. Here we face the massive consequences of unchewcked C.C. and in Ukraine they kill each other and create, probably, more carbon emissions than all our Solar panels together try to avoid. Add to that the emissions for all the rebuilds once the war is over.
    In our scientific minds we are capable of examining and analysing everything to the minute detail. In another part of our brain we are still selfish brutes – some more than others, I admit, but selfish nevertheless (“Not in my backyard”).
    What hope is there for humankind? I assume, not much. And that may well be for the better of the planet. We had our chance and we blew it.

      • Bob and I noticed that Dunoon Dam is back on the table… plus maybe a few more. We can use flood mitigation money to add an extra 60 feet in height. Build that wall!

    • A single volcano puts out more CO2 than all human activity. Most of them are under the ocean and we haven’t discovered them all yet. There is no way to calculate the total natural output of CO2 to be able to calculate the percentage we add.

      This flood cycle is driven by the 12 year cycle of that giant thermo nuclear reactor in the sky you all ignore.

      If you think we humans are uncaring, go live in nature for a while. You will quick understand how civilised civilisation really is.

      • Chris don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.. absolute watermelons green on the outside red on the inner .. how ironic that the Bom were asked for a please explain
        Regading this catastrophic weather event
        Answer from Bom ? Well to predict these weather events .. really ? However they are
        Absolutely sure Global Warming temperatures are going to reach 3% by
        2050 .. this La Nina pattern Australia is currently under plus other factors is the perfect storm for such flooding and yes Joachim that was from the head of BOM
        Not once was global warming mentioned
        As a cause & affect from the latest flooding .
        Chris these Green activists who waved placards in lismore to protest the the Prime Ministers visit all dressed in cloths made from fossil fuels as were the signs and cars they came in .. yet did they help the people of lismore cleanup ? “Do as i say not as i do “

        • Barrow, Barrow, Barrow, why do you do it.
          Making up stuff about the BoM does you no credit. You just keep making more of a fool of yourself than we already know you are.
          I have previously, in the these very fine pages of the Echo, provided you with quotes from the BoM State of the Climate Report about climate / warming and disasters.
          You stupidly ignore science, that your choice. Choosing to make stuff up about the BoM is diving to a new low.

          Your apology list is growing, to Albo and the Echo readers, you just added the BoM to your list.
          Barrow old son, we waiting…

  3. Most council’s declared a Climate emergency without ratepayers Input.. not sure about lismore ?
    3 years ago .. emergency meaning ?
    Imminent danger to life or property…
    Bla Bla Bla … no flood mitigation measures
    Just more of the same BS get rid of resources industries coal , gas nuclear etc.. thats backfired
    In Europe especially Germany so reliant on Russia
    For gas .. just as Putin predicted… and what has
    Been Bidens response and his vice president
    Both of them need carers .. good luck world..
    Oh the floods its Morrisons and The Nsw governments fault right ??

    • No silly, it’s flooding because the rainbow serpent is angry over Lizard rock. If you give one racial group free land at the expense of others everything will be ok, until the leftists want something else they don’t want to pay for.

      Germany’s dependence on Russia is part of the left’s “Liberal World Order”. If all countries are dependent on each other, they can’t go to war with each other.
      That’s why Australia buys foreign oil processed in Singapore even though we have our own oil fields.

    • What flood mitigation measures would you suggest would have prevented the destruction we have just seen across the northern rivers? I would have thought the declaration of a climate emergency has been totally vindicated! No?

      • Now that’s a good question.
        I won’t be crass and say dams.
        The obvious nature to this is a lack of drainage and as fun as D9 bulldozers are to drive, and I sure do like poring concrete, I think there could be a simpler and cheaper solution.
        Without looking at topographical maps, I’m going to have to guess that the local council planners haven’t done proper hydro dynamic simulations of new constructions.
        You don’t have to build across natural drainage choke points to clog them. If you rough up the inside of a pipe, the slow moving layer of water on the surface of the pipe (called laminar flow) starts to grow towards the centre where the water usually flows faster. Water still flows through the pipe, just much less of it despite the pipe still looking open. It doesn’t take much to cause disruption to the flow. With a few concrete walls acting as “damping vanes” at these natural choke points to smooth the flow of water, low laying areas will be drained much faster, slowing or even stopping a build up. It could be as simple as a few key spots having been messed with, could look innocuous, but it would cause everything up hill to have the water just keep piling up to epic levels. The higher the water level, the more force the water tries to escape with, and the laminar flow problem increases exponentially, not linearly.

        If the councils can’t afford the analysis, D9s really are a lot of fun and you can knock down any problematic infrastructure, widen any choke point, or run giant drainage canals in luxury and comfort (Compared to a Bobcat).

      • Liz Levy what concrete evidence did the byron shire Council rely on to declare a Climate emergency in the shire
        Liz .. ?

        • Concrete evidence? Try around 50 odd years of collected climate data going in a pointed direction, sophisticated modelling, a bit of physics and chemistry and the evidence before the eyes of even the untrained.

  4. Liz Levy are you a resident of the shire ?
    I have been for 53 years not once has this
    Council apart from when it became fashionable
    To get hooked on this climate change nonsense
    Only when greta started sprouted her biblical
    Rubbish to the gullible UN etc with no scientific evidence apart from computer modeling which is fairytale nonsense.. did certain councils declare a Climate emergency without ratepayers Input ..
    I have requested of council and i will of you
    and don’t come up with this bullish about the latest flooods for your answer .. what factual evidence
    Did the shire Council have tp declare a Climate emergency ? …meaning Imminent danger to life or property..

    • I know what you asked and I gave you a clear and relevant answer. As usual you’ve gone off on an array of tangents.

      I wont argue with you that the last Green dominated Council wasn’t into a bit of grandstanding with their rhetoric on stuff at the global level only to be not quite consistent in the values applied to areas more in their jurisdiction. But try to stay on point . So you don’t think events like the fires and floods we have recently experienced posed dangers to lives and property.

      Can I give you some advice? The tone of your writing always makes me visualise an angry Alf Garnet type parody. Try deep breaths and calm appraisal – it does wonders for coherent thought.

      • Liz Levy no i don’t think the bushfires
        Or floods remotely anything to do with
        Climate change Liz even warmist scientists
        Openly expressed that the fires had
        Nothing to do with Climate change..
        Liz you dont really mean climate change
        You all obviously mean the use of fossil fuels
        Thats what its all about… eliminate
        Fossil fuels and climate change gos away
        No more hysteria and propaganda…
        Alan Finkel leading Scientist on Global Warming if Australia Shutdown its all
        Industries it would not make One bit of difference to Global Warming and thats a fact.
        And yes Liz i do believe i get somewhat
        Passionate about certain subjects ..
        Apologies 🤗

        • Barrow my man, nice that you mention Dr Alan Finkel with that ‘selected partial’ that you scribbled.
          Now go ahead and write in FULL what Dr Alan Finkel said.

          Now, again Barrow old son, get the Science into your head and once again I’ll quote for you from the BoM State of the Climate Report 2020 –

          “Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.44 ± 0.24 °C since national records began in 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
          Australia needs to plan for and adapt to the changing nature of climate risk now and in the decades ahead. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions will lead to less warming and fewer impacts in the future.
          Atmospheric CO2 continues to rise, and fossil fuel emissions will remain the principal driver of this growth.
          Globally averaged air temperature at the Earth’s surface has warmed by over
          1 °C since reliable records began in 1850. Each decade since 1980 has been warmer than the last, with 2010–19 being around 0.2 °C warmer than 2000–09.”

          Barrow old son, the Science is in, you got it now, yeah.

  5. Fossil fuels are not the only contributors to global warming – deforestation, farting livestock, some chemicals from production and agriculture. No one’s saying it’s one dimensional nor easily fixed given the dependence we have developed.

    Which scientists have stated that more intense bushfires are not the results of the environmental conditions created by global warming? I don’t know how severe and how frequent our disasters have to be before your ilk might concede the slightest possibility that the huge changes we have wrought on the globe might have some impact on the natural world.

    Alan Finkel is right – we make, as a nation, a small contribution to global emissions depending on how this is calculated but this is a different argument from the denialism you are pushing.

    There are many countries with similar rates of emissions that, combined, make up a very sizeable percentage of the world’s efforts. Similarly, Australia alone imposing sanctions on Russia won’t delay WW3 one jot but the world’s combined efforts are having quite an impact.

    Nothing wrong with passion but it can coexist with coherence I believe.

    • Liz Levy iam not in denial.. the IPCC are infact in denial, China & india make up more than half of the worlds global emissions ..neither has signed onto
      The paris agreement and infact both countries
      are right at this minute building more coal fired
      Plants by the hundreds .. both have openly admitted that they may start diversifying
      Energy needs & supply in 2050 .. at the earliest
      COP 26/ IPCC/ the UN nothing to see here ?
      The double standards and and expectations
      For Australia to be better regarding it’s carbon footprint on earth is such hypocrisy…
      Until China & india & Russia are held accountable
      Than why should other countries sacrifice so much
      Europe is in a energy crisis.. most of Europe rely
      On Russia for gas & France for Nuclear power..
      Germany are on the Brink .. who is in Denial Liz ?
      And iam not referring to you …

  6. OK Barrow, let’s just look at the component parts here.

    I was just pointing out that once again you are shifting ground. Ask yourself what you believe:

    a) the Earth is not warming, has not warmed by a measurable 0.14° F (0.08° C) per decade since 1880, nor is the rate of warming over the past 40 years more than twice that: 0.32° F (0.18° C) per decade since 1981. Such conclusions are the product of an international conspiracy of climate scientists to … to your pick i) get research grants, ii) bring down the west …

    Or

    b) there is no such thing as anthropogenic climate change. The climate may be warming but human behaviour is not contributing so we can all just keep doing what we like without making efforts to transition to alternative fuels or take other ameliorative action.

    Or

    c) anthropogenic climate change is a real issue but Australia contributes so little to the world’s emissions – around 1.4 % of global fossil fuel combustion emissions for domestic use, with fossil fuel exports taking our global carbon footprint to about 5% – that we shouldn’t bother or feel obliged to make any efforts to reduce our emissions.

    While you seem all over the place with these, there’s little chance of a coherent discussion with you.

    Btw – my objection to your reference to Alan Finkel, to support your position (whatever it is), is based on a well founded belief that he wouldn’t agree with any of the three options above.

    Just trying to help!

  7. Barrow, perhaps I should have given you another position:

    d) the Earth is warming but this is basically causing no problems so we shouldn’t worry about what’s causing it nor try to take any action to both slow the warming and prepare for it.

    Still just trying to help!

    • Liz, very helpful indeed.
      But our Barrow just does not care and knows no bounds in promoting his rubbish.
      He continually moans about the climate science and the UN / IPCC.
      At one stage he did ( sort of ) support our BoM but that all disappeared after he has ben informed of the BoM’s State of the Climate Report 2020 – the science is in, we are warming, we need to act now on climate.
      He has form in these very fine pages of The Echo of using ‘selective partial’ quotes to try and advance his nonsensical positions.
      – he uses a selective partial quote of Dr Alan Finkel to push his line of ‘no climate action’ when the full interview of Dr Alan Finkel reveals the truth that is the complete opposite of Barrow’s hideous deliberate ‘makings up’.
      – he uses a half line Twitter grab of Anthony Albanese from March 2021 to try and take down and ridicule Albanese when the full interview of Anthony Albanese reveals the complete opposite of another Barrow hideous deliberate ‘makings up’.

      Liz, you are very helpful but there is no helping the Barrow who has zero interest in helping himself.

  8. Liz Levy do not need patronising, nor do i need to be lectured as though iam some year 6 school pupil..
    Maybe you can educate Ms Greta who
    Circumnavigates the globe addressing the
    IPCC panel the UN and COP26 with alarmism
    and all these highly paid elites sit there
    Transfixed by this young adolescent who has Zero
    Scientific education to back up her outrageous
    Current and future predictions..who cares
    Facts dont matter right ? But her intentions
    On point !! Joachim are you going to apologise
    To Mr Morrison? By incorrectly blaming him for the
    Slow response to mobilize the ADF ? It was infact
    The SES who declined the offer from the ADF for
    Help as admitted to by the SES .. the SES were relying on the BOM for updates however it hit so Quickly and even the BOM 100% admitted we cant
    Predict these weather events.. but who cares
    It’s Morrison’s fault is it not Joachim?
    As the BOM has alluded to we are in LA Nina !
    Which brings cold and wet conditions.. EL Nino
    Dry and hot conditions.. incidentally some of the worst
    Floods in the east coast history were in the 1800s
    But of course Captain Planet Joachim will no doubt
    Debunk this..

    • Yep, thought you’d opt out of that little mental exercise. Asking you to clarify your underlying assumptions Barrow, is not lecturing you.

    • Barrow, its all the Albos’ fault!!!
      Him, you wrote March 9 – wanting to charge EV’s from rooftop solar during the night, hopefully with a full moon out.
      The danger for you, picking up Twitter rubbish and then the gall in re-scribbling it as ‘fact’, without doing some basic research.
      Still waiting to read your apology to Albo, for peddling your lie.
      Time to be a man, own it, apologise it.

      The BoM, State of The Climate Report 2020, again for you, get it into your noggin old son –
      “Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.44 ± 0.24 °C since national records began in 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
      Australia needs to plan for and adapt to the changing nature of climate risk now and in the decades ahead. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions will lead to less warming and fewer impacts in the future”.

      You playing Cher’s wonder hit, “If I could turn back time’..to the 1800s.. as you scribbled away?

  9. Liz Levy.. hypothetical ? If all hydrocarbon emissions were eliminated in Australia
    Would this stop the Floods ..bushfires ?

    • Barrow, of course not – and you believe this is relevant because a, b, c or d? Or some other clear elucidation would suffice.

      Come on, stop wussing out!

    • Barrow, no need to ask the Liz.
      You can just tell us all again what Dr Allan Finkel has to say, IN FULL, about taking action on emissions.

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