Adaptation and race against climate change

From Ecos magazine, 15 July 2013:

Five years ago, the federal government took what many felt was the visionary step of investing $50 million dollars in the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). Despite its considerable achievements – which have been hailed globally – NCCARF last month failed to secure continued funding. The initiative has come to a close.

NCCARF was an initiative to address gaps in understanding and knowledge about the impacts of climate change, and to determine what is needed to adapt to those effects.

From 2010 to 2013, it commissioned and managed more than 140 projects across a range of disciplines, amounting to a nearly $40-million research portfolio. It employed the equivalent of 300 or so full-time positions, and nourished a thriving community of more than 5000 researchers and research end-users.

The facility delivered quality research on climate change adaptation across a range of themes. These included emergency management, human health, indigenous communities, primary industries, settlements and infrastructure, and water, terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

So why did such a successful initiative lose funding support? NCCARF director Jean Palutikof from Griffith University says the facility’s demise may be symptomatic of a greater disengagement from climate change. Paradoxically, this disengagement has coincided with reports of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations topping 400 ppm.

According to Prof. Palutikof, NCCARF is not alone in suffering from losses or cuts in funding. ‘The corpses are all over the floor,’ she says. ‘I think NCCARF was a phenomenal vision by the Australian government … but the Australian government at the present time isn’t particularly visionary.’

It’s not only the government that appears to have its head in the sand over the looming crisis of climate change. Business and industry – once thought to be leading the way on mitigation and adaption – now appears to be falling behind as well, according to Climate Institute CEO, John Connor.

‘By and large, most of business is walking backwards into the 21st century with blinkers on: looking at historical data, and not really looking at what are clearly potential changes in this century,’ says Mr Connor. Read more.

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