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Risks from Climate Change to Indigenous Communities in the Tropical North of Australia (2009)

Author:  D Green S Jackson and J Morrison 2009 Department of Climate Change: Canberra
Publication Type: 
Publication Date: 
 Risks from Climate Change to Indigenous Communities in the Tropical North of Australia.

Risks from Climate Change to Indigenous Communities in the Tropical North of Australia.

This scoping study presents an assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on Indigenous settlements and communities across tropical northern Australia, including the Torres Strait Islands and the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The study region is home to about 87,000 Indigenous people, around a quarter of the total population of 355,000. The region includes 665 settlements varying from less than 50, to 3,500 people. Approximately 50 per cent of this Indigenous population lives within 20 kilometres of the coast or on offshore islands.

Indigenous people in northern Australia face many existing challenges.

These include: remoteness, poor health, inadequate infrastructure, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and low incomes.

Climate change will exacerbate many of these pre-existing challenges. However, new opportunities also exist for some of these communities from climate change. Many of these opportunities will stem from existing roles that community members play in managing natural and cultural resources in remote areas on behalf of the nation.

Climate change is expected to impact the study region in diverse ways. Although the magnitudes are uncertain, impacts that are certain to occur include:

  • Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that will alter plant growth;
  • Increasing temperatures that will affect human and natural systems;
  • Rising sea levels that pose threats to low-lying settlements and estuarine ecosystems; and
  • Ocean acidification that will endanger coral reefs and affect marine food chains.
Other impacts likely to occur but with less certainty include:
  • Seasonal change in rainfall with likely increases in intensity in the rainy season for some regions which will affect access and water supplies; and
  • Greater cyclone intensity that will increase inundation of coastal areas.
  • Further information on these impacts for the study region is provided in Chapter 2.

Visit the NAILSMA Climate Change website for more information.

You can download a PDF of the scoping study