This report considers the impact of climate change on Australia's country towns out to the year 2050 and the capacity of this component of Australia's settlement system to adapt. This report is the first output from this project and presents the findings from the initial stages of the investigation.
This report does four things:
It provides the conceptual foundation for the analysis of the capacity of Australia's country towns to respond to climate change, considering adaptation and maladaptation, the project impact of climate change on Australia's ecosystem and the conceptualisation of vulnerability;
It reviews the current literature on climate change and Australia's settlement system, with particular reference to country towns, highlighting the challenges country towns will face over the coming decades and the importance of community action in preparing for the future;
It considers the prospects facing the industries that support country towns currently and which will need to either survive or be replaced if these places are to have a future. It finds here that the evidence is mixed: climate change will have mixed impacts on rural and regional industries and that some industries that might be considered at risk are likely to thrive, at least in the short term.
It tests the feasibility of developing an Index of Vulnerability for Australia's country towns. It concludes that the development of such an index is both practical and potentially worthwhile and that when mapped the results tell a compelling story about the distribution of country towns at risk.
The report concludes by noting that some of the policy implications of climate change for country towns are already evident. However a fuller understanding of how Australian society and Australian communities can prepare for a climate change-affected future awaits the completion of research in later reports that will present a fuller picture as the outputs of additional stages of analysis are presented.