For 27 years, the ACCSP delivered world-class climate science to improve our understanding of the causes, nature, timing and consequences of climate change.

The challenge

Climate science for Australia

Australia's climate influences our way of life, economic activities and the environment. As our climate changes, so too will these influences. Climate change science provides the information we need to understand and plan for climate change impacts – increasing community resilience and reducing the cost to society.

Our response

Driving Australia's climate change research

The Australian Climate Change Science Programme (ACCSP) was the Australian Government's largest and longest-standing climate change science programme, running continuously from 1989 to 2016.

A partnership between CSIRO, the Department of the Environment and the Bureau of Meteorology, the ACCSP also supported activities under the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and the Australian Academy of Science.

ACCSP science focused on the southern hemisphere because most other climate change science is generated in the northern hemisphere and does not provide all the information needed for Australian decision making.

Researchers launch an Argo robotic float from Southern Surveyor  ©CSIRO, Alicia Navidad

Southern hemisphere science is also crucial to better understand the global climate system, particularly in terms of ocean processes.

Specific areas of research included:

  • understanding the Southern Ocean and its influence on global climate
  • increasing our knowledge of the contribution to, and response of, Australia's unique biosphere to climate change
  • understanding processes in the atmosphere, such as cloud properties and aerosol behaviour, that contribute to current and likely future climate
  • incorporating climate knowledge into computer models that represent the climate system and that can be verified and used for the projection of future climate change and its impacts
  • regional assessments of the impacts of (and development of strategies to address) climate change, global change and climatic variability.

The results

A legacy of world-leading climate science

Over the 27 years of the ACCSP we have made significant progress in our understanding of the climate system, including:

  • understanding the rate of global sea level rise and the regional variation around Australia's coast, and pioneering studies of sea level extremes
  • learning more about Southern Ocean physics and chemistry, and identifying links to climate change for the Australian region and the globe
  • developing new approaches to improve understanding of important climate feedback processes
  • increased understanding of the causes of decadal climate variability
  • improving climate projections through the development of more sophisticated climate models
  • developing new methods to develop and communicate regional projections of future climate change.

Through the ACCSP we have been active contributors to international climate change research and assessment activities, including those associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In 2016, all ACCSP research was completed and new earth systems and climate change research will be delivered for Australia through the new Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub of the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme.

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