Indian Ocean Climate Initiative - Western Australia

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What is adaptation?

Adaptation is defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as an 'adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities'. In simpler terms, adaptation refers to any activity that reduces the negative impacts of climate change and/or enables us to take advantage of any opportunities that climate change may present.

Adaptation strategies are generally developed to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts by:

  • reducing exposure to climate change, for example, establishing communities away from high risk flood prone areas;
  • reducing sensitivity to climate change, for example, designing infrastructure such as bridges, roads and buildings that can withstand climate changes such as increased temperatures and storm surges;
  • increasing the adaptive capacity of systems, for example, putting into place emergency management systems to deal with flood or bushfire conditions; and
  • increasing the resilience of systems to climate change impacts.

Cooperation between all levels of society, including government, industry, the science community, technical and professional experts as well as the community is in essential in developing adaptation strategies. This will ensure that decision making is more informed, skills and lessons learned are shared, duplication of time, effort and resources is avoided and that  adaptation is tailored to local conditions.

For more information, go to the website of the Office of Climate Change, DEC.

How does IOCI inform adaptation

Climate is a key determinant of our lifestyle. A multitude of everyday lifestyle decisions, yearly business and resource management decisions and strategic longer term decisions are based on our expectations of the behaviour of regional climate.

In recent years, awareness of our changing climate has increased. The average winter rainfall over the last 32 years in south-west WA, for example, is now 17% less than during the first half of last century. Results from IOCI research have helped WA adapt to the consequent reduction in water availability. So now it is not a question of IF we have to adapt but HOW we can best adapt to the changing climate.

IOCI Stage 3 will enable ‘downscaling’ of the large global atmospheric circulation models used by the CSIRO and BoM which have coarse resolutions of approximately 200 x 200 km2 to a finer scale of approximately 25 x 25 km2 or smaller. Such downscaling will result in climate predictions that are substantially more useful for adaptation planning and decision-making at a regional and sub-regional level.

The emphasis of IOCI Stage 3 now includes not only the south-west of Western Australia, but also the north-west. IOCI scientists are  studying some aspects of the climate of critical importance to the key State export infrastructure located in that region, including the formation and prediction of tropical cyclones under different global warming scenarios and if the current trend of higher rainfall in the northern tropics is likely to persist over time.

IOCI will extend our knowledge to ensure that adaptation decisions are made using the best possible information about future climate. Work in IOCI aims to further our understanding of WA’s future climate in the south west and in our resource-rich north-west.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 October 2011 11:32

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