The deadly dozen: Scientists identify 11 biggest threats to nation’s survival

The nation’s first climate risk assessment hints at a dystopian future for Australia if it fails to properly prepare for a multitude of threats.

Mar 12, 2024, updated Mar 12, 2024
NSW farmer Mark Horan inspects a dried out dam on Bedervale farm near Braidwood, NSW (Photo Lukas Coch)

NSW farmer Mark Horan inspects a dried out dam on Bedervale farm near Braidwood, NSW (Photo Lukas Coch)

The assessment released on Tuesday is a first run at articulating the gamut of climate risks Australia could face as the planet warms.

In all, it identifies 56 nationally significant risks but boils them down to 11 highly dangerous ones that go to the heart of human survival.

They include access to food and water, and Australia’s ability to respond to more frequent and more severe disasters.

They include how warming will affect human health, and the condition of land and ocean ecosystems upon which everything depends.

They also cover risks for Australia’s economy, including the supply of basic goods and services.

On food security, it warns the changing climate could have vast impacts on Australia’s ability to produce food, in turn posing risks for human health and nutrition.

On water, it warns climate change is likely lead to prolonged drought, increases in extreme heat, more variable rainfall, and more severe flooding.

“These impacts will result in increased variability and possibly reduced quality, quantity, accessibility and availability of water supplies,” it says, while increasing competition between communities and industry.

On the economy, it says climate related volatility, such as financial shocks, crises and tipping points, are difficult to quantify “but may create macroeconomic shocks that are felt across all systems”.

Supply chains disruptions from increasingly frequent and severe disasters could severely disrupt life in Australia, affecting access to basic goods and services including food, fuel and medication.

And the list of human health risks is long, from direct impacts from disasters to climate-related hazards like extreme heat, air pollution from bushfires, and expanding disease risks.

Environmental risks include obvious things like habitat loss from disasters, but also impacts on air, water and soil quality.

The assessment warns that if climate fuelled disasters occur regularly enough there could be permanent changes to the way landscapes function.

Assistant Climate Change Minister Jenny McAllister says effective climate adaptation will be essential if Australia is to cope with the climate change impacts scientists say are already locked in.

“Acting on risk is not an admission of defeat. It’s an opportunity to safeguard and build the things we value,” she said.

The minister said some changes to help future-proof Australia would routine, others would be more difficult to manage and some might be impossible to avoid.

“Good government can act to mitigate climate change, while also planning for the changes that are already locked in. This doesn’t mean giving up on reducing emissions.”

The new assessment will inform stage-two work – a deep dive into Australia’s 11 priority risks.

That report is due by the end of this year, and it will inform a new national adaptation plan promised by the government last year.

“The evidence from this report tells us that the risks aren’t just bushfires, more severe storms, and sea level rise, they are broader than what many imagine,” Senator McAllister said.

“Investing in adaptation work now gives us the best chance of limiting the impact of climate change on our communities, our economy, and our natural environment.”

Local News Matters

We strive to deliver the best local independent coverage of the issues that matter to Queenslanders.

Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy