Social vulnerability and climate change

The Queensland Government is currently working with a range of industry sectors to complete their climate change Sector Adaptation Plans (SAPs). QCOSS has been engaged by the Department of Environment and Science to sit on the steering groups for each of these sectors, aiming to ensure Social Vulnerability is embedded throughout the process. The next Sector Adaptation Plan is the Industry and Resources SAP, which includes energy, mining and manufacturing and is being led by the University of Queensland’s Centre for Policy Futures. QCOSS would like to encourage professionals to join others from the Social Service sector and participate in this survey (see Industry and Resources Sector Adaptation Plan below).

Without including consideration of social vulnerability as part of these plans, many of our community members will have existing vulnerability exacerbated, or will become vulnerable, either due to business as usual, or through actions under these plans (remembering that climate change impacts can be felt outside of emergencies, such as people living in poor quality housing, isolated communities, agricultural communities or employment sensitive to climate change and transition). Climate change can exacerbate the health, mental health, safety, financial and other socioeconomic aspects of people facing disadvantage, particularly those living on low incomes, isolated communities (or isolated individuals), elderly or new Australians, who may also be less able to mobilise and adapt.

In 2013, a National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility report clearly found that the impacts of climate change will not be distributed evenly across Australia, and that vulnerability to extreme weather (and other climate change impacts) is more likely to be defined by socioeconomic differences in the community, rather than by environmental impact itself. The report found that the impact of climate change is felt more by people who are disadvantaged because:

  • they frequently have little choice in deciding where they live, and are often disproportionately concentrated in areas at high risk of negative environmental impacts
  • they have fewer economic resources to assist with preparing for and managing extreme weather
  • they have less of a voice and are less able to influence decision makers such as governments.
  • Disadvantaged households experience greater difficulty managing extreme weather events than other households. Households facing multiple disadvantages are especially likely to experience severe impacts from heat and floods.
  • Disadvantaged groups felt a higher level of vulnerability than other groups in relation to the effects of extreme weather events, particularly in relation to rising costs of living and utilities.
  • Social exclusion and disadvantage exacerbate the level of vulnerability to the effects of climate change experienced
  • Existing sources of information to assist people adapt to climate change were largely not effective in reaching disadvantaged groups
  • People are both motivated and able to make changes in their lifestyle and behaviour toward more sustainable practices. Governments need to be prepared to provide communities complete information to enable them to make better decisions about lifestyle and behaviour as well as assist people in making lifestyle and behaviour choices with appropriate assistance programs

If you would like to know more information, please get in touch with Luke Reade, Senior Policy Officer on [email protected].

Industry and Resources Sector Adaptation Plan 

The University of Queensland’s Centre for Policy Futures is developing the Industry and Resources Sector Adaptation Plan and we would greatly appreciate your input. The Plan aims to support the Queensland mining, manufacturing, & energy sectors to better manage risks and harness the opportunities of a changing climate. This Adaptation Plan is an important part of the Queensland Climate Adaptation Strategy 2017–2030, and aims to inform industry practice and Queensland Government policy. The Plan is industry-led, so we are undertaking an industry survey to identify the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. We would appreciate drawing on your insights through this short (15 min) anonymous survey.

To begin the survey, please click here.