IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

11.4.7 Settlements, industry and societies

Settlements, industry and societies are sensitive to extreme weather events, drought and sea-level rise (see Chapter 7). Many planning decisions for settlements and infrastructure need to account for new climatic conditions and higher sea-levels, but little research has been done on climate change impacts. The planning horizon for refurbishing major infrastructure is 10 to 30 years, while major upgrades or replacements have an expected lifetime of 50 to 100 years (PIA, 2004). Substantial infrastructure is at risk from projected climate change. About US$1,125 billion of Australia’s wealth is locked up in homes, commercial buildings, ports and physical assets, which is equivalent to nine times the current national budget or twice the GDP (Coleman et al., 2004). In New Zealand, homes are valued at about US$280 billion, which is equivalent to about triple the national GDP (QVL, 2006). The average life of a house is 80 years and some last for 150 years or more (O’Connell and Hargreaves, 2004).

For infrastructure, design criteria for extreme events are very likely to be exceeded more frequently. Increased damage is likely for buildings (e.g., concrete joints, steel, asphalt, protective cladding, sealants), transport structures (e.g., roads, railways, ports, airports, bridges, tunnels), energy services (see Section 11.4.10), telecommunications (e.g., cables, towers, manholes), and water services (see Section 11.4.1) (PIA, 2004; BRANZ, 2007; Holper et al., 2007). In Victoria, water infrastructure is at significant risk for the B1 scenario by 2030, while power, telecommunications, transport and buildings are all at significant risk for the A1FI emission scenario by 2030 (Holper et al., 2007).

Climate change is very likely to affect property values and investment through disclosure of increased hazards and risk, as well as affecting the price and availability of insurance. In many Australian jurisdictions, flood hazard liability is not mandatory, or is poorly quantified (Yeo, 2003). Governments sometimes provide financial relief to the uninsured from large natural disasters (Box 11.1) and such costs are likely to rise. Insurance costs are very likely to rise in areas with increased risk. Hail damage accounts for 50% of the 20 highest insurance payouts in Australia (ICA, 2007), but there is limited information about potential changes in hail frequency (see Section 11.3).

Despite the economic significance of mining in Australia (5% of GDP and 35% of export earnings; ABS, 2005c), there is little information regarding climate change impacts on mining. However, in northern Australia, projected increases in extreme events, such as floods and cyclones, have the potential to increase erosion, slow down re-vegetation, shift capping materials and expose tailings in the area that includes Ranger and Jabiluka mines. These impacts have not been adequately considered in long-term mine planning (Wasson et al., 1988; Parliament of Australia, 2003). The traditional owners, the Mirrar, are concerned that these impacts may detrimentally affect land between Madjinbardi Billabong and the East Alligator River and the lowlands on the floodplain margins that lie downstream from these mine sites (Kyle, 2006).

There are major implications for amenities, cultural heritage, accessibility, and health of communities. These include costs, injury and trauma due to increased storm intensity and higher extreme temperatures, damage to items and landscapes of cultural significance, degraded beaches due to sea-level rise and larger storm surges, and higher insurance premiums (PIA, 2004). Increased demand for emergency services is likely. By 2100, costs of road maintenance in Australia are estimated to rise 31% for the SRES A2 scenario in a CSIRO climate simulation (Austroads, 2004).

Climate change may contribute to destabilising unregulated population movements in the Asia-Pacific region, providing an additional challenge to national security (Dupont and Pearman, 2006; Preston et al., 2006). Population growth and a one-metre rise in sea-level are likely to affect 200-450 million people in the Asia-Pacific region (Mimura, 2006). An increase in migrations from the Asia-Pacific region to surrounding nations such as New Zealand and Australia is possible (Woodward et al., 2001). Displacement of Torres Strait Islanders to mainland Australia is also likely (Green, 2006b).