Response to CSIRO State of the Climate Report

In November, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology released the State of the Climate 2022 Report, outlining changes to weather and climate extremes across Australia. The report is published every two years and a summary of this year’s report is shown in the video below. The findings of the report show that Australia’s climate has changed. It will continue to change in-line with anthropogenic climate change. Although Australia is a land of extremes, these extremes are being pushed beyond known records and are placing our biodiversity and natural resources at risk.

Below is DARE’s response to the State of the Climate Report – by DARE Director Assoc. Prof. Willem Vervoort and DARE CI Dr Aaron Greenville.

As the magnitude and frequency of climate extremes increases our future becomes more uncertain. Our very existence is dependent on the natural resources and biodiversity the Earth holds, yet we do not know how ecosystems and environments will respond in the face of such rapid changes.

Viewed through an ecological lens, DARE is taking on this urgent challenge by employing the new field of near-term ecological forecasting to predict what this change may look like in a year, 5 years and 10 years. Then deploy management strategies early, update forecast models with near-term outcomes and abate biodiversity loss.

Australia’s most remote locations are affected by climate change. Central Australia – already a land of extremes – is becoming hotter. One in 10 year flooding rainfall events are increasing in magnitude and frequency. These extreme rainfall events trigger huge increases in productivity, but also mask a hidden threat of more wildfires and increases in invasive species, such as rabbits, buffel grass, red foxes and feral cats.

Brown floodwaters covering farmland near Singleton, NSW, Australia. (CSIRO)

Brown floodwaters covering farmland near Singleton, NSW, Australia. (CSIRO)

From a hydrological perspective, in drier areas such as Australia, where the rainfall is more variable, but overall rainfall is low, effects of climate change will be felt more, as the changes will be relatively larger. Regrettably, state and federal monitoring networks are sparse in these areas, as population densities are lower. These areas require innovative solutions to water observations and integration of data for decisions.

Across Australia, reduced water availability which will fluctuate more widely which makes accurate water measurements and knowing exactly where the water is even more important.

We need to reduce and quantify the uncertainty in water predictions and measurements. We cannot manage what we can’t measure or predict! As observed by Vervoort et al. 2021, this means we need to a) measure more accurately and b) make more accurate predictions for decision-making on water sharing.

Quantifying uncertainty in biodiversity and water sharing, is vital to improve decision-making to address climate change. Knowing where to measure and what to measure is an important part of reducing uncertainty. We can then use quantified uncertainty to improve this knowledge.

Using Data Science, DARE can map uncertainty across the monitoring network, as well as for our model predictions. This will improve decision-making on improved monitoring networks and drive new approaches to prediction and observation, such as using remote sensing technology.

With the effects of climate change bearing down on us, and mitigation still behind schedule, finding better ways to forecast and predict will provide management solutions for adaptation.