Changing climate

Human-induced climate change poses a significant threat to South Australia's biodiversity, natural resources and regional communities. Climate change is a long term trend that underpins a highly variable short term climate. Consequently, climate change will be experienced as a change in the frequency of normal climatic events, as well as a change in the upper and lower extremes of those events.

The best available climate science indicates a warming and drying trend for South Australia, with much of the predicted rainfall decline occurring over the growing season, especially in autumn and spring. Average temperature will continue to rise, with an increased occurrence of extreme heat events and drought. There has already been a measurable change in the frequency and duration of heat waves. Reports such as Climate change under enhanced greenhouse conditions in South Australia produced by the CSIRO show that climate science also indicates a potential for rainfall to occur in shorter and more intense events, with a consequent increase in the risk of localised flooding.

The impacts of a changing climate are complex. In many cases, predictive science and modelling are the only ways to gain early warning of potential catastrophic impacts, including sea level rise, species range shifts and changes to the ecology and interdependencies of species. Modelling and analytical tools are used to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change and adaptation strategies on natural resources.

Regional Climate Change Projections have been produced specifically for each NRM region in South Australia, as a summary of the climate change projections for 2030 and 2070. These reports were a collaboration between DEWNR and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, SARDI and PIRSA. These reports do not address the causes of climate change, but directs the reader to authoritative sources on climate science.

Climate change science in DEWNR focuses on biological and physical elements of our environment that may be affected by climate change and the adaptation options for natural resource managers, primary producers, and urban and rural communities. Planning and action, facilitated by ongoing monitoring and analysis, are needed now to manage our natural environmental assets in the face of climate change.

DEWNR has links to National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) research nodes and to the Research Institute of Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide.

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