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Climate change: adapt and mitigate

As the world’s 13th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Australia’s mitigation target must be an effective response to climate science and represent a fair share of the global collective burden.

This is a key statement in the latest issue of ATSE Focus (Focus 202) which examines climate change mitigation and adaptation and how we manage our climate and our society.

Mitigation costs can be at least partially offset by avoiding some of the adaptation costs (if global action is effective) and by driving benefits associated with the shift to a lower-carbon economy, writes climate change strategist Dr Lorraine Stephenson FTSE.

The key challenge, she writes, is for the Australian Government to design and implement a suite of cost-effective policies that allow business and the community to take actions at least aligned with the nation’s 2030 emissions trajectory pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21).

“These policies must provide sufficient certainty to drive investment and at the same time be designed to allow for ratcheting up the level of ambition in line with international stocktakes under the Paris Agreement,” she writes.

Increasing population and a highly variable climate – which requires greater water storage requirements for equivalent water security than other countries – mean that Australia will need climate-independent water sources, writes Mr Graham Hawke, who heads the Environment and Research Division of the Bureau of Meteorology.

He also suggests interventions to reduce water demand – consumption tariffs, usage restrictions, sustainable diversion limits, leak-detection systems, automated irrigation-control technologies and behavioural campaigns.

“Without continued action to diversify supplies and reduce demand, our water security will erode and more vulnerable supplies and population will be exposed during drought,” he says.

Australia’s efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are no longer adequate, warn three key GBR specialists – Mr John Gunn FTSE, CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Dr Line Bay, reef specialist at AIMS, and Dr Russell Reichelt FTSE, Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The scale of the GBR poses enormous challenges for ecological interventions, they write – that can only be overcome with an integrated R&D program combining biology, engineering and decision science.

“We have a chance to leverage a growing awareness of the effects of climate change to garner support for new research and intervention initiatives that will help protect the livelihood of millions and maintain the ecosystem value of reefs worldwide,” they write.

Energy security is a key issue in a changing climate as dramatic changes in electricity generation and distribution take effect to reduce emissions.

The electricity sector – Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emissions sector – must play a leading role in reduced emissions, write Dr Bruce Godfrey FTSE and Dr John Söderbaum FTSE, Chair and Deputy Chair of ATSE’s Energy Forum. There must be no barriers to entry of new technologies and services.

“Current policy uncertainty is a major barrier to investment in Australia’s electricity markets,” they write.

“A price on emissions would provide a clear market signal, provided it has bipartisan support.”

Climate change over the past 25 years has already impacted major agricultural production systems – initiating shifts in land use – and threatens increased frequency of extreme weather events, write Professor Snow Barlow FTSE and Dr Joanne Daly FTSE.

Climate change adaptation will focus on the need for improved seasonal weather forecasting, better genetics, integration of sensor technologies and big data on farms and decreasing plant protein.

The trend towards electric self-driving vehicles will see transport emissions decline radically over the next decade, writes ATSE President Professor Hugh Bradlow FTSE.

“We need to start planning a society that is free of human drivers and an internal combustion engines by the early 2030s,” he writes.

Source: ATSE

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