Key uncertainties and research priorities

with both countries able to produce more food than they require for internal consumption, although imports of selected foods may be needed temporarily to cover shortages due to extreme events. Climate changes are also likely to bring benefits in some areas for hydro-generation, winter heating requirements and tourism.

Figure 11.5 assesses key hotspots identified for the region, where vulnerability to climate change is likely to be high. Their selection is based on the following criteria: large impacts, low adaptive capacity, substantial population, economically important, substantial exposed infrastructure and subject to other major stresses (e.g., continued rapid population growth, ongoing development, ongoing land degradation, ongoing habitat loss, threats from rising sea level). Their development at current rates and accustomed supply of ecosystem services are unlikely to be sustainable with ongoing climate change, unless there is considerable planned adaptation.

For Australia and New Zealand, the magnitude of investment in adaptation is overshadowed by that in mitigation. The latter is intended to slow global warming. However, there is unlikely to be any noticeable climate effect from reducing greenhouse gases until at least 2040 (see Chapter 18). In contrast, the benefits of adaptation can be immediate, especially when they also address climate variability. Many adaptation options can be implemented now for Australia and New Zealand at personal, local and regional scales. Enhancing society's response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation (see Chapter 18).

Assessment of impacts is hampered because of uncertainty in climate change projections at the local level (e.g., in rainfall, rate of sea-level rise and extreme weather events). Research priorities for these are identified in the IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC, 2007). Other uncertainties stem from an incomplete knowledge of natural and human system dynamics, and limited knowledge of adaptive capacity, constraints and options (Allen Consulting Group, 2005). More needs to be done to assess vulnerability within a risk-assessment framework. Based on the information presented in this Chapter, the main research priorities are assessed to fall into four categories:

11.8.1 Assessing impacts of climate change and vulnerability for critical systems

• Water: Impacts and optimum adaptation strategies for projected changes in drought and floods, and implications for water security within an integrated catchment framework. This includes impacts on long-term groundwater levels, water quality, environmental flows and future requirements for hydroelectricity generation, irrigation and urban supply.

• Natural ecosystems: Identification of thresholds including rates at which autonomous adaptation is possible; identification of the most vulnerable species (including key

Kakadu

Salt water intrusion due to rising sea level, displacement of freshwater wetlands by mangroves. Changed species assemblages.

Queensland Wet Tropics

Multiple species extinctions predicted for upland endemic vertebrates for moderate levels of warming. Deterioration of coral reefs. Large losses to built environment from flooding, can Jewel ricea and ra/plnne ctnrm eurnec

Kakadu

Salt water intrusion due to rising sea level, displacement of freshwater wetlands by mangroves. Changed species assemblages.

Queensland Wet Tropics

Multiple species extinctions predicted for upland endemic vertebrates for moderate levels of warming. Deterioration of coral reefs. Large losses to built environment from flooding, can Jewel ricea and ra/plnne ctnrm eurnec

Eastern New Zealand

Water security problems from increased drought and rising demand where irrigation is unavailable.

Alpine Zones

Loss of plant and animal species, increase in shrubs at expense of herb fields. Glacier shrinkage and reduction in snow cover. Threats to New Zealand's built environment from increased flooding, erosion and landslides.

Eastern New Zealand

Water security problems from increased drought and rising demand where irrigation is unavailable.

Figure 11.5. Key hotspots identified for Australia and New Zealand, assuming a medium emissions scenario for2050.

indicator species), long-term monitoring; modelling of potential impacts on key ecosystems; interactions with stresses such as invasive species; improved bioclimatic modelling; and management options to reduce vulnerability.

• Agriculture: Impacts and adaptation strategies for a complete range of farming systems, including both costs and benefits for rural livelihoods. Analyses should address changes in the industry supply chain and regional land use, and the threat of new pests and diseases.

• Oceans and fisheries: Potential impacts of changes in climate, ENSO and IPO on physical oceanography, marine life and fish stocks in the waters that surround Australia and New Zealand.

• Settlements, especially coastal communities: Comprehensive assessments of vulnerability and adaptation options so as to provide improved guidance for planning and hazard management. Investigation of local and regional costs of projected changes in extreme weather events and adaptation planning for scenarios of sea-level rise beyond 2100.

• Climate extremes and infrastructure: Risks to building, transport, water, communication, energy and mining infrastructure, and insurance protection from an increase in extreme weather events. A re-evaluation is required of probable maximum precipitation and design floods2 for dams, bridges, river protection, major urban infrastructure and risks of glacier outburst floods.

• Tourism: Improved understanding as to how direct and indirect impacts of climate change affect human behaviour with respect to recreation patterns and holiday destination choice.

• Climate surprises: Impacts of abrupt climate change, faster than expected sea-level rise and sudden changes in ocean circulation. Little is known about potential impacts and vulnerability on the region beyond 2100.

11.8.2 Fostering the process of adaptation to climate change

Australia and New Zealand have few integrated regional and sectoral assessments of impacts, adaptation and socio-economic risk. More are desirable, especially when set within the wider context of other multiple stresses. Methods to incorporate adaptation into environmental impact assessments and other regional planning and development schemes need to be

2 A hypothetical flood representing a specific likelihood of occurrence, e.g., the 100-year or 1% probability flood. 530

developed. More research is required as to how local communities can shape adaptation (Kenny, 2005) and of adaptation options for Maori and Indigenous Australian communities, especially for those on traditional lands. Priority should be given to reducing the vulnerability of 'hotspot' areas through:

• identification of mechanisms that governments might use to reduce vulnerability,

• better understanding of societal preparedness and of the limitations and barriers to adaptation,

• better definition of costs and benefits of adaptation options, including benefits of impacts avoided, co-benefits, side effects, limits and better modelling,

• analyses of various options for social equity and fairness, the impacts of different discount rates, price incentives, delayed effects and inter-generational equity.

11.8.3 Assessing risks and opportunities of climate change for different scenarios

Impact scenarios underpin policy decisions about adaptation options and emission reduction targets. The following analyses are required for the full range of SRES and CO2 stabilisation scenarios:

• definition of the probabilities of exceeding critical biophysical and socio-economic thresholds and assessment of consequent vulnerability or new opportunities,

• assessment of net costs and benefits for key economic sectors and for each country,

• better modelling of land-use change as climatic boundaries shift, and assessment of the implications for regional development, social change, food security and sustainability.

11.8.4 Analysing global trade, immigration and security for climate change outcomes

Impacts of climate change and adaptation elsewhere in the world are very likely to change global interactions, and especially trade in commodities. The implications are large for the strongly export-based economies of Australia and New Zealand. Further studies are needed in order to assess the impacts of climate change on the region's competitiveness and export mix. In the Asia-Pacific region, adverse effects on food, disease, water, energy and coastal settlements are likely (Dupont and Pearman, 2006), but implications for immigration and security in Australia and New Zealand are poorly understood.

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