Report calls for national coordinated approach to combat devastating impact of climate change

Rising temperatures will lead to dramatic changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather in Australia, according to a report released today by Australia’s largest general insurer IAG and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The report, Severe Weather in a Changing Climate, includes the latest data on the state of the climate and predictions on future extreme weather events based on a range of warming global temperatures (up to 3°C from pre-industrial times).

The report provides numerous projections for Australia’s future climate, revealing:

  • Higher intensity tropical cyclones will affect South East Queensland and North East New South Wales over longer periods of time (refer to infographic).
  • Bushfire risk is likely to increase in almost all states, leading to more frequent and extreme heat and longer fire seasons, particularly in South East Australia.
  • Regions in New South Wales and Victoria are likely to be impacted by more damaging hail (2cm or greater) including areas between Hunter River south through to the southern New South Wales highlands, as well as central and eastern Victoria. 
  • Intense rainfall is expected to increase almost everywhere in Australia, resulting in more frequent flooding in urban areas and in small river catchments.
  • Sea levels are rising around Australia, increasing the risk of floods impacting coastal systems, buildings and infrastructure.

IAG Managing Director and CEO Peter Harmer said there is an urgent need for Australia to prepare for and adapt to climate change.

“Each year we are confronted globally with extreme weather events that become natural disasters. This report shows that our climate is changing more rapidly than some have predicted, so it is critical there is a coordinated national approach from governments, industries and businesses to build more resilient communities and reduce the impact of disasters.”

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils Mark Leplastrier said: “The report highlights that one of the key risks facing Australia as the world warms towards +3°C is tropical cyclones travelling further south with higher intensity.

“This means that parts of South East Queensland and North East New South Wales will start to experience greater devastation from strong winds and torrential rainfall due to cyclones.

“These regions are densely-populated and to safeguard these communities now and into the future, there needs to be greater investment across all sectors to reduce the financial and physical burden as the climate warms,” Mr Leplastrier added.   

The findings highlight the need for resilience and mitigation planning by individuals and communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“With the annual economic cost of natural disasters predicted to hit $39 billion by 2050[1], we need to invest more as a nation to better protect communities. This includes adequate land planning and building codes to ensure our infrastructure is able to withstand extreme weather, especially for cyclone and flood-prone regions,” Mr Leplastrier said.

NCAR Director for Capacity Center for Climate and Weather Extremes Cindy Bruyère said: “Climate change is becoming a major risk multiplier, generating more extreme weather events that threaten life and property and weaken economic growth. It is imperative that we work together to better understand these risks, so society can take appropriate steps to mitigate the potential impacts.”

IAG and NCAR are currently working on a joint project to apply the latest climate modelling to better understand how tropical cyclones will change in the future. This work will be released through peer-reviewed journal articles in 2020. 

See all information about the report.

About NCAR

The US National Center for Atmospheric Research was established by the National Science Foundation in 1960 to provide the university community with world-class facilities and services that were beyond the reach of any individual institution.

NCAR's researchers and engineers work with community collaborators and private and public partnerships to ensure that we meet the demands of today's greatest scientific challenges. NCAR scientists also delve into fundamental research questions, producing a wealth of scientific publications that help lead the way for the broader science community.

NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a nonprofit consortium of more than 115 colleges and universities.


[1] Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities report – November 2017