Coastal councils unprepared for climate change: JCU

Friday January 23 2015, 9:30am

In the first study of its kind in Australia, a James Cook University researcher has discovered major holes in local government preparations for climate change

 Michael Bradley, from JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology, in collaboration with CSIRO's Marine and Atmospheric Research Division, surveyed 67 coastal councils from around Australia.

He found 29 either did not have plans to deal with the effects of marine climate change, or had plans in the very early stages of preparation. Of the other 38, just under half were only in the initial stages of planning.

Mr Bradley said most councils focused on the effect of sea-level rises on infrastructure, with only five of the 67 considering the economic and social fallout on the population at large.

He said just four councils had looked at the effect of sea surface temperature rises, and none had considered how to deal with ocean acidification. 

“At a base level, they should at least be taking into account every aspect of marine climate change, or somewhere down the track there will be an impact that crops up that they haven’t considered,” he said. 

“Those that are planning are concentrating on how cities will be affected, and overlooking the threat to business and how people’s lives will change.”

 He said wealthier councils were more likely to have made plans, but the quality of planning was dependent on a range of variables, including social and economic factors and the level of community awareness of climate change. 

“The best idea for many councils is to become part of a regional organisation – a group of councils – and work together."