Researchers from around the world have gathered for Australia's first international conference focused entirely on adapting to the impact of climate change. Organizers of the meeting say the effects of a warming planet are already being felt and that societies need to learn how to cope.
Some 1,000 delegates at the International Climate Change Adaptation Conference, south of Brisbane, will hear that the impact of warming temperatures and rising sea levels is likely to increase in severity. Governments, communities and individuals are being warned that they will need to quickly adapt to harsher conditions. Organizers of the Queensland summit say that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which are widely blamed for higher temperatures, will not be enough to ward off the worst effects of climatic change.
The conference is concentrating on practical ways for society to protect itself from hotter temperatures, elevated sea levels and more severe tropical cyclones, which are all threats that authorities on Australia's Gold Coast, a popular, high-rise vacation spot, are factoring in to future residential and business developments. Analysts will also discuss ways that towns and villages can fortify themselves against the ravages of bushfires, as well as protecting against heat waves and droughts.
New rules that imposed tough, new building codes after the deadly Victoria wildfires that killed more than 170 people in February, 2009, have been cited as one good example of public policy trying to protect the community from natural disasters.
Conference organizer Jean Palutikof warns that Australia will be one of the countries hardest hit by climate change starts. However, he is hopeful the meeting on the Gold Coast will provide some valuable answers...
"This is not a climate change science conference," Palutikof said. "So, actually, I expect the messages from this conference to be positive ones around action against climate change and empowering people to act to protect themselves against climate change, so I am looking forward to three days of positive messages about how we can tackle the problem of climate change."
Among the speakers at the meeting will be Joseph Alcamo, the chief scientist of the United Nation's Environment Program.
In coming days, the conference is expected to hear from researchers that, if the world is to learn from Australia's experience at the hand of an increasingly unpredictable climate, then it must act quickly and decisively.
However, many Australians remain wary of assertions that their country will fall victim to potentially destructive, man-made climate change. Other scientists, mining companies and farmers believe that man's influence on the environment is negligible and insist that any shifts in temperatures or sea levels are part of a natural cycle.