Getting ready for climate change is about people, not spreadsheets. Let’s use our imaginations

Getting ready for climate change is about people, not spreadsheets. Let’s use our imaginations

Measures in this week’s federal budget to help Australians withstand and adapt to climate change are sorely needed, after years of cuts in this policy area.

The Morrison government has funded a raft of initiatives, including A$600 million to establish a National Recovery and Resilience Agency and A$210 million for the Australian Climate Service .

But disaster recovery can’t be the sole focus of climate adaptation. Are we harnessing networks that enable a society to function effectively, and tapping into diverse forms of knowledge? Are we valuing all types of “capital”? In short, are we being imaginative enough?

Australia can take great strides forward in climate policy and action. A reactionary, incremental approach to adaptation will fall short. Now is the time to think big. Disaster resilience measures were contained in the federal budget delivered this week by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (right), pictured here with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Climate adaptation matters

Importantly, the government is seeking to embed climate adaptation across various portfolios.

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency NRRA will combine fire and flood agencies to centralise disaster recovery and response. This multi-agency structure should reduce “siloing” across government departments.

The Australian Climate Service will collate climate data and advise the NRRA, helping streamline disaster recovery decisions. It will also support the review of Australia’s current resilience and adaptation strategy.

These initiatives are welcome. But climate resilience means far more than responding once disaster hits. Human decision-making is complex, especially during a crisis. A solely post-disaster response inevitably means some people are left behind. In contrast, adaptation that plans for and anticipates future events can help ensure people – especially the vulnerable – are not left worse off by the climate crisis.

And while we will always need climate data and risk modelling, we cannot assume everyone will use the data to make good decisions.

Increasing Australians’ resilience to climate change means putting people’s lived experience and knowledge first. Planning should be community-based , and these perspectives should translate into policy .

The Reimagining Climate Adaptation Summit, held last month , explored this path. Communities want change – and that means involving them in adaptation planning.

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