Climate Adaptation Action Urged After Australia’s Severe Flooding

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Severe floods have affected several parts of Australia, their worst in more than 50 years. Intense rainfall on the east coast of Australia that started on 18 March 2021 had flooded vast areas in New South Wales, the North Coast, to the lower part of the Sydney metropolitan area.

The government has declared many parts of the east coast a natural disaster zone. Torrential rains have caused Sydney’s Warragamba Dam to overflow and spilling its waters on rivers which have caused significant floodings in the area.

Floods have damaged houses, livestock, killed two people, and force 40 thousand people to evacuate their homes.

Despite knowing about climate change effects in the 1980s, Australians continue to build their homes in floodplains, according to Karl Mallon, CEO of Sydney-based Climate Valuation.  Builders and developers have placed profits before safety while homeowners seek a minimum insurance payment. On the other hand, local governments and banks have provided insufficient information about property buyers’ risks.

Austalia has experienced many disasters from bushfires, severe droughts and heatwaves, and now extreme rainfall and flooding.  

In 2020, Australia faced a brutal bushfire that their Prime Minister dubbed as the “black summer”. The bushfire claimed 30 lives and burned over 24 million hectares of land, including the wildlife it is hosting.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world most extensive coral reef ecosystem, is undergoing stresses due to the increasing ocean temperatures caused by climate change.

According to Cam Walker of Friends of the Earth Australia, climate impacts will worsen, and the one-in-a-century events will become more common. Walker proposes a region-based climate adaptation strategy to address climate change.

Climate adaptation should involve everyone in society, from mortgage lenders and insurers providing incentives to homeowners when building more resilience into their homes, such as stronger roofs and flood barriers.  Local councils should increase drainage, build better seawalls, and provide modern firefighting equipment. Residents vulnerable to bushfires to clear their gutters, install sprinklers and shutters that keep out embers, and use fire-proof paints.

Despite having a sophisticated weather monitory system, the country has yet to prepare their National Adaptation Plan.  Although in January, the environment minister committed to producing a new climate resilience and adaptation strategy for 2021.

Green groups are also proposing to protect and restore wetlands, mangroves, and forest to help mitigate floods and storms while increasing vegetation will help alleviate heat in urban areas.

Agriculture practices need to change, especially their tilling practices and using crops and livestock breeds that can adapt and are more resilient to heat and drier conditions.

Lastly, the country must address their reliance on coal-fired plants, making it one of the world’s highest carbon emitter per capita.

Source Citation:

Taylor, M. (2021 March 26). “Wilful ignorance’: Flood-hit Australia urged to rethink climate adaptation.  Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved from https://news.trust.org/item/20210325225707-a7fl6/

Yeung, J. (2021, March 22). Parts of Australia declare natural disaster during, once in 100 years’ floods.  CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/21/australia/australia-flood-natural-disaster-intl-hnk/index.html

Kurmelovs, R. (2021, April 1). Fire and flood: ‘Whole areas of Australia will be uninsurable’. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/apr/02/fire-and-flood-whole-areas-of-australia-will-be-uninsurable

PHOTO CREDIT: Ninian Reid via Flickr Creative Commons License

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