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Adapting to climate change is a way to prepare for the future and reduce the likely harm caused to our communities, industries and infrastructure. Adaptation can also maximise the benefits of any opportunities associated with climate change.

Australia's changing climate

Climate trends and extreme events have combined with exposure and vulnerabilities to cause major impacts for many natural and human systems.

Climate impacts are cascading and compounding across sectors and socio-economic and natural systems.

In future, Australia is projected to become warmer, with more hot days, fewer cold days and less snow. Further sea-level rise, ocean warming and ocean acidification are projected. Less winter and spring rainfall is projected in southern Australia, with more winter rainfall in Tasmania, less autumn rainfall in south-western Victoria and less summer rainfall in western Tasmania, and uncertain rainfall changes in northern Australia.

More extreme fire weather is projected in southern and eastern Australia and over northern Australia. Increased drought frequency is projected for southern and eastern Australia. Increased heavy rainfall intensity is projected, with fewer tropical cyclones and a greater proportion of severe cyclones.

Some future climate change in Australia is already “locked in” even if the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5° C are met. Future climate-related impacts experienced in Australia will be dependent on the level of global warming the world reaches.

Significant climate change risks for Australia

Nine key risks for Australia have been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They include:

  1. Loss and degradation of coral reefs and associated biodiversity and ecosystem service values in Australia due to ocean warming and marine heatwaves
  2. Loss of alpine biodiversity in Australia due to less snow
  3. Transition or collapse of alpine ash, snowgum woodland, pencil pine and northern jarrah forests in southern Australia due to hotter and drier conditions with more fires
  4. Loss of kelp in southern Australia due to ocean warming, marine heatwaves and overgrazing by climate-driven range extensions of herbivore fish and urchins
  5. Loss of natural and human systems in low-lying coastal areas due to sea-level rise
  6. Disruption and decline in agricultural production and increased stress in rural communities in south-western, southern and eastern mainland Australia due to hotter and drier conditions
  7. Increase in heat-related mortality and morbidity for people and wildlife in Australia due to heatwaves
  8. The cascading, compounding and aggregate impacts on cities, settlements, infrastructure, supply-chains and services due to wildfires, floods, droughts, heatwaves, storms and sea-level rise
  9. Inability of institutions and governance systems to manage climate risks.

The Australian Climate Service, which includes CSIRO, is working with the Australian Government to deliver Australia's first National Climate Risk Assessment.

The Risk Assessment is identifying to what degree Australia's people, infrastructure, the economy, and landscapes are exposed and vulnerable to climate change now and over the rest of the century.

Barriers and limits to climate adaptation

Progress on adaptation has been uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks. Enabling conditions include political commitment, institutional frameworks, clear goals and priorities, enhanced knowledge on impacts and solutions, access to finance, monitoring and evaluation.

There are barriers to adaptation, such as limited availability of local climate information at the scale decisions are made, limited integration of different levels of governance, and different attitudes towards risk management. There are also limits to adaptation, especially for natural systems that are currently threatened, e.g. coral reefs, alpine ecosystems and kelp forests.

What does climate adaptation look like?

Adapting to a changing climate can involve businesses and communities, as well as federal, state and territory governments.

Water resources

Adapting to a drier climate can be achieved by reducing water demand through water restrictions and water-efficiency incentives, or by increasing water supply through desalination, increased recycling, or using water tanks.

Read more about how we're driving water banking initiatives to increase water security in drought-affected areas.

Sea-level rise and flooding

Options for adapting to sea-level rise include sea walls, natural vegetation buffer zones, and changing building codes.
Adaptation options to reduce flood risks include improved flood forecasting, raising floor levels and sealing external doors, levees and dams, spatial planning and relocation, improved stormwater management, and water-sensitive urban design.

Read more about our work in sea-level rise and adaptation planning.

Read more about our work in understanding flood risks for Australia under climate change.

Farming and agriculture

Agriculture can adapt by changing crop varieties and farming practices.

Read more about our digital information product that provides commodity and location-specific climate predictions for Australian farmers for the next 50 years.


We can help biodiversity adapt by creating migration corridors or reducing other pressures on the environment.

Read more about our work in connecting ecological data with decision science.


Adaptation options to reduce fire risks include prescribed burning to reduce fuel load; improved building design standards; better information about exposure and vulnerability; community education and engagement; early warning systems; training and support for fire fighters; and improved governance arrangements.

Read more about how we are helping to prepare Australia for future extreme bushfire events.


Adaptation options to reduce heatwave risks include early warning systems; expanding tree canopy and greenery; shading, heat-resistant and energy-efficient building design; reflective or green roofs; generator-backup during electricity blackouts; and strengthening public health services.

Read more about how we're helping urban planners to identify areas with potentially higher heat-health vulnerability.

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