Australia at a Glance
Population: 25.8 Million (2021)
Major Threats: Heavy Rains, Floods, Drought, Bushfires
Populations Affected: Urban and Rural Communities, Coastal Communities
Locations Affected: New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia
Industries Affected: Agriculture, Infrastructure
Compounding Issues: Livelihoods, Climate Change, Environmental
World Risk Index Ranking: 123
Global Climate Risk Index: 19 (2021)
Australia is increasingly suffering from climate-related disasters. Tropical cyclones followed by floods and bushfires commonly occur yearly, putting the sixth-largest country on stay-alert mode. In 2022, Australia experienced floods from February to December in many of its states. High exposure to climate change has caused Australia to experience both a longer dry season and the occurrence of more intense wet weather; responsible for damage to homes, and the evacuation of residents.
Billions of dollars in funds have been disbursed to cope with disaster resilience, mitigation, and prevention, but this also means that Australia is a vulnerable country that has faced repeated bushfires, droughts, and floods. Australia has suffered from both habitat loss and loss of lives.
Major Threats and Economy
Over the past two decades, Australia’s economy has enjoyed consistent growth. However, the recent global recession has begun to impact the nation adversely. Projections indicate that the inflation rate is affecting the living conditions of residents, particularly those with lower incomes, as it has driven up the prices of basic necessities. This inflationary pressure is closely tied to job availability and worker salaries, placing additional strain on both individuals and businesses.
In addition to these economic challenges, Australia has experienced the devastating loss of millions of hectares due to recent bushfires, resulting in extensive damage to the agricultural sector. There are instances where farmers struggle to provide meals for their families as their crops wither in the aftermath of these fires. Over the past five years, the country has faced increasingly severe weather conditions, including heavy rainfall, floods, and droughts, which have garnered attention from government agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Climate Change Impacts
The impacts of climate change are already being keenly felt, with rising sea levels and increasing seawater temperatures causing growing concerns. The phenomenon of coral “bleaching” is occurring at this very moment, posing a significant threat to the destruction of coral reefs. This situation puts the Great Barrier Reef at a heightened risk level, endangering its rich biodiversity, which includes over 1,500 species of fish, 100 species of jellyfish, thousands of mollusks, and more. Additionally, it is a vital cultural and economic resource for Aboriginal communities who rely on it for their livelihoods.
The Great Barrier Reef plays a pivotal role in sustaining the region’s economy by contributing to over ten thousand jobs. However, climate change has brought about an increase in wet weather events, along with the heightened risk of cyclones and floods, further exacerbating the challenges faced by this precious natural wonder and the communities that depend on it.
Australia, the sixth largest country on Earth, has a long history marked by recurring encounters with natural disasters, a pattern that has become increasingly pronounced in recent decades. The impact of climate change is evident in the heightened intensity of extreme weather events, as forecasted and cautioned by experts. Cyclones, torrential rains, floods, heatwaves, and bushfires are all on the rise in both intensity and sometimes unpredictability. These hazards are clear consequences of climate change and have dire consequences for both natural habitats and communities.
Among these disasters, heavy rains and floods rank as the second most perilous in Australia. When they occur, they can inundate vast areas spanning thousands of kilometers for weeks or even months, wreaking havoc on the affected regions and disrupting daily life for residents.
Adaptation and Local Context
Australia’s extreme climate variations, from high temperatures to sub-zero lows, impact regions differently. Government and local community-based organizations are working together to combat climate change through emissions reduction, risk assessment, adaptation, strategic updates, enhanced resilience, and promoting green initiatives.
Effective disaster intervention and prevention efforts are essential for minimizing losses. Despite government funding to address hazards, agricultural losses remain high. Hence, investment plans should prioritize low-emission options and adhere to climate-resilient infrastructure and agriculture commitments.
The recovery of damaged corals and the Great Barrier Reef is equally crucial, given the considerable time required for restoration. Success hinges on the implementation of a comprehensive strategy and collaboration among multiple stakeholders, with measurable outcomes aimed at securing a brighter future.
Opportunities and Recommendations to International Donors
Most natural hazards that occur in Australia are related to climate change. Areas that might be supported include:
- Agriculture and ecosystem efforts for protecting biodiversity
- Infrastructure works
- Adaptation knowledge, research, and technology such as resilient water systems and flood prevention
- Supporting existing programs