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Climate change risk and vulnerability: promoting an efficient adaptation response in Australia

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Potential effects of climate change on Australia have been identified through climate models, and these include more frequent ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) events, more heatwaves and fewer frosts, reductions in average rainfall and more severe wind speeds in cyclones.The Australian Government have decided to fund the development of an adaptation strategy but this will require a period of raising awareness, developing science, and developing techniques for application of such a strategy in reality.Several priority vulnerable systems and regions within Australia have been identified by the authors:Ecosystems and biodiversity: Particular priority is advised for World Heritage listed systems and there is scope to assist natural adaptive capacities of such areas.Agriculture: Strategies to increase the resilience of this sector could include research on cultivars, development of livestock for temperature and pest resistance, and better information on climate change risk parameters.Water supply: Adaptation options in urban areas could include systematic inclusion of climate risk in all major catchments. In addition, it is advised that assessment of alternative supply sources, such as desalination and water recycling, should become a priority.Settlements and emergency services: It is advised that adaptation in this area would include ensuring that studies of current emergency management priorities include additional risks posed by climate change.Energy: Climate change risks should be included within energy planning and it is suggested that a programme of studies be adopted into the sensitivity of energy systems to climate change. Regions: The most highly vulnerable regions are shown to include the Great Barrier Reef and south west Western Australia. Specific regional adaptation would require cooperation between all levels of government.An opinion expressed by the authors, as well as representatives of agencies and Government and other stakeholders, is that climate change adaptation strategies should ideally build on existing development efforts and that they should be led by strong national leadership.