Climate change experts have long warned that extreme weather events are set to worsen; intense and prolonged heatwaves; more bushfires; more powerful cyclones, coastal inundation and general flooding. Now attention is turning to how communities, industries and ecosystems will cope in this altered world.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report was released in Japan on 31 March 2014 at 10 am (AEST). The report has found that without adaptation, further changes in climate, atmospheric CO2 and ocean acidity are highly likely to have substantial impacts on water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity, infrastructure, health, agriculture and communities.

The IPCC is comprised of thousands of scientists around the world who voluntarily review and assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to climate change. These scientists then pool their expertise to provide a collective view of the most likely effects of global warming on the way we live and our future environment.

Professor Roger Kitchingfrom the Griffith School of Environment is one of the co-ordinating lead authors of the Australasian chapter.

“Our coastal zones are on the front line; rising sea levels in combination with storm surges are projected to increase erosion and inundation which will damage low-lying ecosystems, infrastructure and housing,” Professor Kitching said.

“We can say with a very high degree of confidence that snow lines will continue to rise and while more intense rainfall events will bring heightened flood risks to some areas, across southern Australia annual average rainfall is expected to decrease.”

Macquarie University’s Professor Lesley Hughes is also one of the lead authors of the Australasian chapter.

“We have identified a number of key risks for Australian natural and human systems. Some of these risks can be reduced with significant adaptation efforts, but some, such as those to mountain ecosystems and coral reefs, will only be reduced by substantial reductions in emissions,” Professor Hughes said.