On the tenth anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, and with natural disasters unfolding at either end of the Australian continent, Rod Keenan writes in The Conversation (7.2.19) that, in the years following Black Saturday, climate adaptation research was in full swing, creating knowledge in how to deal with the risks – but a series of government funding cuts have left this research in decline.
‘The climate in Victoria over the previous 12 years had been harsh. Between 1997 and 2009 the state suffered its worst drought on record, and major bushfires in 2003 and 2006-07 burned more than 2 million hectares of forest. Then came Black Saturday, and the year after that saw the start of Australia’s wettest two-year period on record, bringing major floods to the state’s north, as well as to vast swathes of the rest of the country.
‘In Victoria alone, hundreds of millions of dollars a year were being spent on response and recovery from climate-related events. In government, the view was that things couldn’t go on that way. As climate change accelerated, these costs would only rise.
‘We had to get better at preparing for, and avoiding, the future impacts of rapid climate change. This is what is what we mean by the term “climate adaptation”.
‘A decade after Black Saturday, with record floods in Queensland, severe bushfires in Tasmania and Victoria, widespread heatwaves and drought, and a crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin, it is timely to reflect on the state of adaptation policy and practice in Australia.’