For disaster risk reduction we need a National Assessment of Climate Risk and a National Climate Adaptation Plan

October 14, 2022 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Merri Creek in flood.

While we continue to experience disastrous Flood events in Victoria, New South Wales and northern Tasmania, reflect that October 13, was International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction as declared by the United Nations.(1)

With this flood event in Victoria more than 500 homes have been damaged and a further 500 cut off by the extensive flooding, while thousands of homes have been left without power. Thousands of people have been under evacuation orders across the three states reports the ABC. The flooding of farmland in regional areas will destroy crops and may impact food prices.

We need the Federal Government to order a National Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, followed by the development of a National Adaptation Plan to address the climate driven extreme weather disasters.

Here is the Bureau of Meteorology Flood assessment for Victoria (14 October):

“So even though the rain has stopped, the flood threat has not. So, we are likley to see major flooding continuing for the next few days.”

ABC News Meteorologist Tom Saunders outlines that rainfall records have already been broken in regional Victoria, including 48 hour rain records, with rainfall 3 or 4 times the monthly average falling in a couple of days.:

  • Mangalore 137mm (data from 1957)
  • Bendigo 117mm (Data from 1863)
  • Swan Hill 85mm (Data from 1884)
  • Seymour has had its worst flooding event on record.
  • Shepparton will see flood peak on Tuesday of about 12 metres, similar to 1974 record floods

Saunders estimates further rainfall being dragged in from the Indian Ocean will produce extensive rain across the Murray Darling Basin from next Wednesday to the Sunday. “In the next ten days many towns in the Murray Darling Basin likely to see close to a 100 mm of rain. What this means is that the flood peaks from next weeks event could be even higher in many areas than we are seeing right now.”

Severe weather long term outlook

We are likely to see more torrential rain over the coming few months due to La Nina and a negative Indian Ocean Dipole, with more flood events resulting. A warming climate is also a factor now in all extreme weather events as for each degree of warming the moisture carrying capacity of the atmosphere increases by about 7 percent. We are at 1.2 degrees C of global warming. Warmer ocean temperatures also mean greater evaporation to drive more torrential rain and thus add to flood events.

The Bureau of Meteorology released their severe weather long term forecast on 13 October:

  • November to January rainfall is likely to be above median for most of the eastern half of Australia, with the highest probabilities occurring in November.
  • For the fortnight 17 to 30 October, above median rainfall is very likely (greater than 80% chance) for large parts of the eastern two-thirds of Australia. Parts of Western Australia have a moderate chance (greater than 60%) of below median rainfall.
  • November to January maximum temperatures are likely to be above median for Tasmania, and much of Western Australia; cooler than median days are likely for parts of southern and central Queensland, and much of eastern New South Wales.
  • Minimum temperatures are generally likely to be warmer than median for November to January across Australia, although there is roughly equal chance of cooler or warmer than median nights for south-eastern Queensland, north-eastern New South Wales and the south-east interior of Western Australia to western South Australia.
  • La Niña, a negative Indian Ocean Dipole event, a positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode and warmer waters around Australia are all contributing to the wetter long-range forecast over large parts of Australia. Some further wetting influence over the next fortnight may come from the Madden–Julian Oscillation.

With serial Flooding, bushfires, Cyclone disasters, where is our climate risk assessment?

Despite a new Federal Labor Government elected early this year, it seems setting up a National Climate Risk Assessment and a National Adaptation Plan was not part of their climate policies.(2)

As there hasn’t been a systematic national assessment of climate risk and vulnerability, authorities are not efficiently planning for disasters. Instead, adhoc responses are made by state Governments, local Government, emergency services and citizens at the time of disasters. Defence forces are asked to respond quickly to events when the disaster is beyond existing state emergency services resourcing. This is poor planning and poor adaptation to climate disasters that are only likely to compound and increase.

Our Defence forces also feel the strain of being called upon for civil disaster response which takes them away from their principal focus of defence of Australia and responding to disasters in our region.

While a climate security risk assessment has been ordered by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, this is not a general National climate risk and vulnerability assessment. This assessment has a specific focus and is not a substitute for a national risk assessment. (3)

Back in February 2022 Richie Merzian from the Australia Institute highlighted that Australia had never undertaken a national climate risk assessment, despite the UN requesting such documents be produced.

“It’s unbelievable and irresponsible that after all the devastating fires, floods and droughts, the federal government has never undertaken a national risk assessment to better understand and prepare for climate change impacts,” Mr Merzian said. (4)

Several academics upon release of the IPCC report in February also highlighted that Australia should do a climate risk assessment and a national climate adaptation Plan :

“Australia would benefit from a national risk assessment and a national climate adaptation implementation plan. Other ways to enable more effective adaptation include serious and stable funding and finance mechanisms, and nationally consistent and accessible information and decision-support tools.” the academics said.(5)

Australians want a National Climate Risk Assessment and a National Adaptation Plan

Polling in March 2022 found that 72% of Australians agree that the Commonwealth government should undertake a national risk assessment to establish how vulnerable the country is to climate change, what locations will be most impacted, and how those impacts will be felt.

In the same poll Almost three quarters (74%) of Australians agree with the statement, “The federal government should develop a National Adaptation Plan.”(6)

Instead of a National climate risk assessment and a National Adaptation Plan we have the Climate Council NGO providing a climate risk mapping tool. While this is important, it does not contain the detailed assessment of vulnerability to disasters or how to best adapt in the face of disasters, (7)

Climate Action Merri-bek extracted the flood risk data for our municipality from this tool. See Climate Risk mapping for Moreland: climate impacts and insurability (May 2022)

We know the new Labor Government has a lot to do coming up to speed after 9 years of neglect and inaction by previous Liberal National Governments.

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen needs to get the gears in motion in ordering a National Climate Risk Assessment which would contribute to formulating a National Adaptation Plan.

This would provide a plan for emergency services response, an active plan for climate adaptation projects so we don’t have to go through loss of life and property destruction again and again as climate driven extreme weather disasters continue to affect our lives.

References:

Entry filed under: news. Tags: , , , , .

Merribek NGOs advocate for Australian climate commitments for COP27 Candidate Forums for Brunswick and Pascoe Vale #Vicvotes2022

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