South East Queensland has been identified as one of several high-vulnerability climate change hotspots in Australia. The frequency and severity of hazards including major storm events, droughts, heatwaves, bushfires and flooding across the region are expected to increase as the climate continues to change.
In recognition of the risks posed by a rapidly changing climate, Council declared a climate emergency in order to drive the urgent and sustained response needed to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Council's Climate Change Response Plan is at the core of this response.
Council's Climate Change Response
Council endorsed its Climate Change Response Plan in August 2021. The plan identifies desired outcomes and actions that we can pursue to address climate change. These actions fall into two broad categories: 1) climate change "mitigation", which refers to efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or enhance carbon sinks, and 2) climate change "adaptation", which refers to our preparations for the impacts of climate change that are already here and expected to increase in the future.
Our response to climate change requires both mitigation and adaptation, pursued together and of equal importance and urgency. There are two primary reasons for this.
- Extreme events are larger in frequency and intensity with every additional increment of warming. There are also recognised limits to adaptation, where we could reach a point beyond which human and natural systems can cope with expected impacts. So we must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, to prevent further warming and its associated impacts.
- At the same time, human emissions since the Industrial Revolution have increased the global average temperature by over 1C already and there is clear evidence that this warming is currently affecting every inhabited region across the planet with changes in weather and climate extremes. So we must adapt and build resilience to the changes that are already here, and to the changes that are expected as temperatures continue to rise.
While weather is what occurs on short timescales (e.g. on a day-to-day basis), climate is the long-term average weather observed over thirty years or more. In other words, weather is what you get, climate is what you expect. The change in climate over long periods of time, typically decades or longer, is known as 'climate change'1.
The Earth’s climate has warmed significantly over the past 200 years. This is due to human activities that have significantly increased the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. The rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases trap more and more heat on the planet, causing land and oceans to warm at a rate much faster than has occurred naturally in the past2.
This has led to changes in weather and climate patterns around the world3. This includes changes in the frequency and intensity of rainfall, increases to average temperatures, increasing sea level and more extreme weather events such as storms, heatwaves, fires and drought4. South East Queensland has also been identified as one of several high-vulnerability climate change hot spots in Australia, with the frequency and severity of hazards including floods, major storm events, bushfires, droughts and heatwaves expected to increase5,6,7. These changes affect everything from our environment and economy to our health and wellbeing.
The most trusted authorities, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CSIRO, the Bureau of Meterorology, NASA, the World Bank, World Economic Forum, and others, all agree that human-induced climate change is happening now and is a significant risk to our way of life. It is important for everyone –from the individual and local level to the state, national and international level– to act collectively and decisively to address the global challenge posed by climate change and unlock the enormous opportunities that come with building a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.
6Reisinger, A, et. al. (2014). Australasia. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Working Group 2 to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
7Queensland Government, Climate Change in South East Queensland
As the changes to our climate unfold over the coming decades, the risks faced by private and public property, infrastructure, natural systems, human health, agriculture, and the economy are also expected to change. Council operations may also be exposed to transition risks (e.g. carbon pricing), which may exert pressures upon Council budgets. Therefore, it is critical that Council adopts a long-term and proactive approach regarding these risks to help improve and build the adaptive capacity of Noosa Shire. Council also believes that it has a moral obligation to “do its part” in reducing global GHG emissions.
Council also believes that the responsibility for responding to the causes and risks associated with climate change is shared by many stakeholders and thus requires a collaborative approach. Proactive planning for climate-related risks includes ensuring appropriate development requirements, adequate infrastructure planning, effective disaster management, good asset management and appropriate governance systems are established and implemented. Council’s response will involve not only adaptive and pragmatic planning, but also localised emissions reductions.
In the face of a changing climate, Council will:
- Maintain a precautionary approach1 to climate change adaptation and emissions reduction, developing and implementing short and long term actions that seek to achieve resilience and carbon reduction while also delivering other social, economic and environmental benefits.
- Commit to being innovative, flexible and adaptive in our approach to climate change.
To meet the challenges of climate change and satisfy the above, Council has developed a Climate Change Response Policy 2017 and is implementing a Zero Emissions Organisational Strategy 2016 - 2026. Council has also developed a Climate Change Response Plan for the whole of Noosa Shire and has partnered with the Sunshine Coast Council on a pilot project funded by Queensland Government to build a Regional Climate Action Roadmap. Council will also regularly review its policies, strategies, plans and other relevant systems, where their subject may be affected by climate change, to ensure they remain current as the science of climate change, and best practice response measures, continues to develop.
Council is committed to improving its knowledge and capability to appropriately respond to climate change through meaningful actions that drive carbon emissions reductions and pragmatic adaptation planning, as part of its overarching Sustainability Principles.
1In this context, this well-established concept means that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise those threats.
Noosa Council has completed a multi-year project to develop a whole of shire Climate Change Response Plan (CCRP). The plan responds to Council’s climate emergency declaration and helps Noosa Shire adapt to and prepare for the potential effects of climate change over time.
As part of Council's overall response to climate change, Council has developed a Coastal Hazards Adaptation Plan (CHAP) that addresses sea level rise-driven risks in the coastal zone as a result of coastal erosion and shoreline recession, storm tide inundation and permanent inundation. Development of the CHAP has been funded through a $490,000 grant under the Queensland Department of Environment & Heritage Protection’s QCoast2100 initiative, which is administered by the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).
Additional information, including technical documents and FAQs, can be found on the CHAP project page.
Climate-influenced coastal hazard map layers developed as part of this project are publicly available through Council's Intramaps platform. Those wishing to view these maps are encouraged to read the supporting information available on the project page, in particular the Phase 3 Coastal Hazards Mapping Refinement Report (available for download via the document library on the project page), which describes the inputs and methodologies used to develop these hazard projections.
Above: The eight project phases of the QCoast2100 program
If you would like to find out more information regarding climate change, in-depth and easy-to-understand resources can be found below.
For information, tools and projections for the future climate in Australia, see CSIRO's Climate Change in Australia Website. Queensland Government also has a State-specific dashboard for our future climate here.
For the world's most authoritative and up-to-date climate information, including the science, impacts, and response options, see the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
For simple climate change resources and an in-depth dive into adaptation within our coastal zone, see the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility’s CoastAdapt Website.
If you have questions about climate science, see NASA’s Climate Change Website or the UK Met Offices' Climate Change explainer. In particular, NASA's FAQ section is a good place to start for short, digestible answers related to the science.
If you are an individual, community, business or local government looking to take action, see Queensland's Climate Action site.
For a deep-dive into climate change issues affecting Australia, including simple explainers, reports and communication guides, see the Climate Council's Website. Science-based myth busting can also be explored on the Skeptical Science Website, set up by UQ's Professor John Cook.
To ask questions, express your interest or to simply share your thoughts on climate change, please get in touch with us here.
If you'd like to calculate your carbon footprint and begin your sustainability journey, take the Brisbane Carbon Challenge and calculate your footprint, or use WWF's ecological footprint calculator. Visit ZEN Inc.'s website to learn about reducing home energy use in Noosa and review the resources on Queensland's climate action website to take action at home or in your work sector.
The Queensland Government is also currently running a climate action survey where you can provide feedback on what support you could use to help you, your organisation or community to take climate action.
Council has declared a climate emergency
Coastal Hazards Adaptation Plan
Our response to changing coastal hazards as a result of climate change
Regional Climate Action Roadmap
A regional roadmap to better understand climate risks and opportunities
Reducing our emissions
What Council is doing to reach its Net Zero Emissions goal
Principles that guide climate change adaptation in Noosa
Climate change affects all of our environment
There are many alternatives in Noosa to reducing cars on roads
Zen Inc supports the Noosa community in reducing emissions