Spotlight Activity: The Cost of Climate Change in Australia
Who is at risk?
Many, many more vulnerable Australians are at immediate risk from climate damage than is properly appreciated.
- Townsville is far north Queensland’s largest city and home to more than 180,000 people. Youth unemployment in Townsville is nearly 1 in 5, double the Australian average, and downturns in the resource industry have hit the city hard. On top of this, Townsville was hit with its worst ever flooding in 2018. Climate change will increase the odds of a 1-in-100 year flood by 130% in Townsville by the end of this century, making most homes there uninsurable. Townsville is one of the epicentres for the climate-driven home insurance crisis, with the Insurance Council of Australia predicting extreme weather will make 1 in 10 Australian homes uninsurable by the end of this century.
- 28 of the top 50 local government areas for socio-economic disadvantage in Australia are in Queensland and the Northern Territory (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018). And, all but a few of those 28 are isolated Indigenous communities. These areas already struggle with employment and endemic health problems, and now face temperature increases of anywhere between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius by 2050 – the most seriously affected by global heating in the whole of Australia. Unfortunately, these areas are all in electorates that swung conservative in the recent federal election, driven by scare campaigns about the future of the coal industry and the prohibitive cost of climate action.
- The severe health impacts of climate change are well known, but it is not just children, elderly or poor Australians that are at immediate risk. A new study reports that Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city of more than 2 million people, will be “a difficult place to live” by 2050, and even healthy adults will need to avoid outdoor activities throughout most of the summer. The majority of summer days will become high “heat stress” days for the entire population, with little relief due to rising minimum temperatures at night.
Status: Falling Behind
Is there an effective response?
Put simply, there is no response. The three examples above show that whole population centres in Australia will be pushed to the limit by climate change. Struggling cities like Townsville (incidentally the headquarters for the Adani company, who still hope to build the Carmichael mega coal mine), isolated regional communities at the wrong end of the socio-economic scale and even state capitals like Brisbane are all reaching the point where authorities will not be able to muster enough resources to protect them from climate damage. And, if regional populations are unable to insure their homes or cope with extreme weather they will pack up and move to state capitals – a vicious feedback loop.
Dear Mr. McCormack,
As Minister for Regional Development, we hope you can face the reality that climate damage poses a clear and present danger to regional Australians.
Townsville is case and point. FNQ’s capital is already down on its luck, facing huge youth unemployment and an uncertain future for the resource sector. Flooding in Townsville is getting worse, with the chance of a 1-in-100 year flood on the rise (incidentally, this is a key number companies use to set premiums for property insurance). Locals don’t just face a future where they don’t have a well-paid job – they face a future where their homes are uninsurable due to climate change.
Most of the poorest local government areas in Australia are clustered in a few electorates in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and the majority of these are Indigenous townships. They also face increasing temperatures of between 3 and 5 degrees by 2050 – the worst hit areas in Australia for global heating. They already struggle with access to services and healthcare, and have higher than average unemployment rates, so how on earth will they deal with temperature increases that will affect even healthy adults? Both these examples illustrate the point that regional, disadvantaged areas in Australia may soon be too difficult to live in. It is not hard to imagine a future where towns and cities empty to and regional Australians move to the state capitals. But then will the capitals be able to cope? We hope you’ve seen the latest report suggesting Brisbane may become a “very difficult” place to live by 2050, and that even healthy adults will need to avoid outdoor activities during summer.
To maintain a healthy, happy regional population Australian simply has to act on climate change. And, to ensure that regional areas don’t become unliveable or uninsurable, Australia simply has to act on climate change. We hope as Minister for Regional Development you will act accordingly, and keep the regions flourishing.
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