Climate change and adaptation

Climate change refers to a change in weather patterns due to a rise in the Earth’s temperature. Some of this change is natural, but some changes in climate have also been caused by human actions, such as the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal). Climate change leads to rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and droughts, and extreme weather events such as floods and fires, all of which negatively impact on the built and natural environments, agriculture and the health and wellbeing of all people [30592].

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which can limit their access to healthy bush foods and disconnect them from Country, which can negatively impact their health and wellbeing. In remote areas of Australia, where there may be inadequate housing and limited energy supply or cooling appliances [45432], increases in temperature will see a rise in heat-related illness as well as the exacerbation of existing medical conditions [30592] [30675]. Extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods can damage the infrastructure in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, cutting them off from services for long periods of time [47280].

In Australia, the process of ‘adaptation’ is a key focus for addressing these issues associated with climate change. Adaptation refers to the practical changes that people and communities can make to help them manage the issues that climate change will bring [47280] [44829], such as developing good evacuation and early warning processes for natural disasters, upgrading and strengthening buildings, managing energy use, and teaching people how to stay healthy in higher temperatures [30592]. Indigenous knowledges and traditional land management techniques used in caring for Country activities also contribute significantly to and enhance effective adaptation [46348].

There are also ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities can lessen some of the risks associated with climate change, including:

  • planting trees to reduce air pollution and provide shade
  • managing feral animals to limit their impact on the environment
  • reducing the number of bushfires by undertaking planned burning initiatives, such as ‘cool burning’
  • switching to renewable energy sources, such as solar power [30592] [46348] [44879].


Key resources



Seven sisters by Josie Boyle

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