Climate change requires us to think differently about our future to better understand the risks we may face and what we can do to adapt and build greater resilience to change. Acting sooner rather than later reduces risk, reduces costs associated from not being prepared and assists our future liveability.
The long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere means that its climate warming effect responds to a reduction in CO2 emissions only gradually, over many years. It also takes centuries to millennia for the Earth system to fully respond to changes in the greenhouse effect. This means that if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations were to stop increasing and remain constant from now on, it would take centuries to millennia for the warming of the planet to cease.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that in addition to reducing emissions we need to prepare for a changing climate and more extreme weather. This is where climate adaptation and resilience come into play.
In simple terms, we need to develop adaptation solutions and implement action to respond to the impacts of climate change that are already happening, as well as prepare for future impacts. This includes connecting with our local community so that we can better support each other when faced with challenges.
Irrespective of tipping points, climate change adaptation efforts will be less costly and disruptive to society, and will stand a better chance of success, if warming can be limited to 1.5°C rather than 2°C or higher.
A climate resilience action plan will be presented as part of Sustainable Hepburn 2022-26.
Dr Brett Sutton, MMBS MPHTM, FAFPHM, FRSPH, FACTM, MFTM
Victorian Chief Health Officer