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Impacts of climate change
Climate change poses major risks to Australia’s people, economy and environment. A warmer climate is
predicted to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, floods and bushfires.
Australia will benefit from global efforts to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and limit global warming to
below 2 degrees. Below 2 degrees of warming, Australia will be better able to adapt to the impacts of climate
change, but with larger levels of warming, adaptation will be increasingly costly and challenging. Without strong
action to reduce emissions, the world is likely to experience 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century.
Projected impacts
Climate change will have wide-ranging effects on natural systems and human life.
Depending on the level of warming, climate change could affect the quality of our environment, where we live,
our health, what we do and what we eat. Sea levels will rise, dry regions will become drier; wet regions wetter
and extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts, storms and floods will become more frequent and more
intense. For example, with 4 degrees of warming, the most extraordinary heatwaves of today would become the
norm and there would be a new class of heatwaves of magnitudes never experienced before.
Climate change is projected to exacerbate Australia’s extreme weather. Impacts will differ across Australia, some
of these with 4 degrees of warming include:
 Adelaide: The number of days above 35 degrees is projected to
increase from 17 to 47 by 2070
 South-west WA: Average annual rainfall is projected to continue to
decline, and be 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2070
 Alpine regions, the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu wetlands are
projected to have increased risk of plant and animal species
Costs of climate change to Australia’s economy and society
The impacts of climate change will result in far-ranging economic, environmental and social costs that will
increase over time with higher levels of warming.
Climate change will affect all Australians; vulnerable groups include:
 Households: Australians on low incomes or those who are unemployed, homeless, living in poor-qualityaccommodation, or frail through age or chronic health conditions.
 Indigenous Australians, who already have higher rates of socioeconomic disadvantage and strong income and
cultural connection to the natural environment.
 Australian industry and their workers, in particular, the agricultural and tourism sectors, with the local
community affected by financial, emotional and physical stress.
Studies (for example, Stern, 2006 and Garnaut, 2008) have shown that the cost of strong climate action is less
than the cost of the impacts of climate change arising from inaction.
See Chapter 2 of the Targets and Progress Review Final Report on climate science and impacts