The capacity of Alice Springs to adapt to a hotter and wetter climate is relatively sound, a report by a Charles Darwin University researcher has found.
Professor Rolf Gerritsen, from CDU’s The Northern Institute, said that while climate change would pose challenges for Aboriginal communities and threaten some major industries, he was optimistic that Alice Springs had the resources, technology and resilience to “survive, adapt and persist”.
“Climate change is more likely to bring about an intensification of current problems rather than give rise to new ones,” Professor Gerritsen said.
“The major threat would most likely be flooding, but here in Central Australia, floods potentially mean disease, and eventually fire.
“Our institutional technology, particularly for emergency and medical responses to natural calamities, has been overhauled and improved in recent years, and there is a high level of awareness of the town and its region’s vulnerability.”
Professor Gerritsen’s report is part of a national research project that is examining the likely impact of climate change on several Australian regional towns.
Conclusions are based on CSIRO modelling that predicts that temperatures in Central Australia may rise by at least 1.6C by 2050.
“Alice Springs already has mean maximum temperatures of 35.5C for five months of the year so any additional temperature rise for long proportions of the year will provide challenges to human adaptability,” Professor Gerritsen said.
“The science indicates that a rise in temperature will probably result in an increase in rainfall throughout Central Australia.”
Professor Gerritsen said any consideration of the impact of climate change on Alice Springs must take the whole of the vast Alice Springs region – roughly equal in area to New South Wales – into account because responses anywhere in the region would affect the town.
“The town cannot be considered in isolation. If there are flash floods that dislocate any Aboriginal settlement in the region, it is a problem for Alice Springs,” he said.