The devastating floods in Queensland and New South Wales highlight, yet again, Australia’s failure to plan for natural disasters. As we’re seeing now in heartbreaking detail, everyday Australians bear the enormous cost of this inaction.
It’s too soon to say whether the current floods are directly linked to climate change. But we know such disasters are becoming more frequent and severe as the climate heats up.
In 2019, Australia ranked last out of 54 nations on its strategy to cope with climate change.
Watch: Kids on climate change in 2017. Post continues after video.
Australia had a chance to lift its game when it released a new climate resilience and adaptation strategy late last year. But the plan was weak and contained no funding or detailed action.
At the time of writing, the current floods have killed at least 21 people across two states and left many thousands homeless. Sydney suburbs were being evacuated amid warnings of more intense rain.
Governments must urgently invest in measures to help communities cope with extreme weather events. As we’re seeing right now, Australian lives depend on it.
Right here, right now.
Last week’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was just one in a long line of warnings about the increasing risk of natural disasters as global warming worsens.
Australian governments are well aware of the problem. In fact, the federal government’s new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy, launched at the Glasgow climate conference in November last year, stated: "As the global temperature rises and other changes to the climate increase, Australia will face more frequent and severe events, such as extreme weather, fires and floods, and slow-onset events, such as changing rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level rise."
The measures it contained were a start – but communities across Australia need much more, right now.
The strategy contained no new budget commitments or specific programs. It also lacked detailed actions on how to help urban and regional communities prepare for the impacts of climate change.
I have extensive experience in the public sector at all levels of government, in areas such as coastal, urban and regional planning, and climate change adaptation.
I also have first-hand experience of natural disasters. In the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires my family lost a much-loved holiday home at Mallacoota in Victoria, which we’d held for four generations. I’ve also worked on the ground helping councils and communities prepare for and recover from disasters.
I’m deeply concerned at how badly prepared Australia is for current and future damage from climate change. Australia lacks even the most basic policies and plans, including: