Vulnerability scores are a measure of the potential for harm from a range of climate-related risks, taking into account the capacity to manage those risks. For this study, the vulnerability of specific areas was assessed relative to the rest of the Sydney coastal region.
Preparing for the impacts of climate change: assessing the vulnerability of our cities
Acting now to understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change could significantly reduce the future costs and disruption to Australia's coastal cities and towns.
27 January 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011
Adapting to climate change
Climate change poses threats to the cities and urbanising coasts where more than 90 per cent of Australia's population lives.
Some of Australia's most economically, socially and culturally valuable property is in the coastal zone - 711 000 addresses lie within three kilometres of the coast and less than six metres above sea level.
Weather-related disasters do increasing damage to vital infrastructure, but effective and timely adaptation options can significantly alleviate the costs of this - most published studies suggest by at least 50 per cent.
CSIRO's expertise in climate science, spatial mapping and social and economic modelling, through the Climate Adaptation Flagship, can help Australian coastal communities deal with the effects of climate change, including sea level rise, heat waves, storms and bushfires.
CSIRO's expertise in climate science, spatial mapping and social and economic modelling can help Australian coastal communities to deal with the effects of climate change.
The principle science challenges for assessing vulnerability of these urban environments are:
integrated understanding of future social, demographic, economic and climate trajectories for Australia's settlements
managing uncertainty in our understanding of future climate change
identifying the key factors that contribute to climate vulnerability now and in the future
enabling a path to delivery so that the science can underpin adaptation decisions by regional stakeholders.
Coastal regions in New South Wales and Victoria have been assessed, while a new project begins in South-east Queensland in 2009.
In Sydney, a CSIRO vulnerability assessment of 15 coastal council areas found the consequences of climate change in coastal parts of Sydney will be driven as much by socio-economic factors and policy decisions as by climate hazards such as heat waves and storm surges.
Key points to note:
local governments have a key role in managing and responding to the impacts of climate change
given the physical and socio-economic diversity of the landscape, different areas within the region are likely to be affected in different ways
each local government is likely to experience unique management challenges that arise from the local context.
CSIRO recommendations on how to improve the adaptive capacity of local governments in the Sydney area are moving forward, and several local governments are developing council risk assessments and adaptation action plans.
In Victoria, the Western Port Greenhouse Alliance is focusing on community outreach to ensure the results of an assessment of Western Port reach a large spectrum of stakeholders and serve as a foundation for future efforts around location and sector-specific management issues.
The South East Queensland Climate Adaptation Research Initiative has been established involving CSIRO, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Griffith University, the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, and the Queensland Government, and aims to provide solutions and insights to support climate adaptation planning in this region.
Find out more about CSIRO's Sustainable Cities and Coasts research.