‘Critical decade’ to shield Australia’s vital social infrastructure

17 June 2013

The Australian Council of Social Service today backed the findings of a new report arguing this is the ‘critical decade’ for action on climate change, adding that disadvantaged groups will feel the full brunt of inaction.

“We strongly support the Climate Commission’s well-considered report, which should be a wakeup call for our nation’s leaders,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“ACOSS has long acknowledged the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, and supports immediate action to safeguard the future well-being of our planet, especially for our communities and the generations to come.

“ACOSS is particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact climate change will have on people experiencing poverty, inequality and social disadvantage – not only in our own country but around the world.

“All the evidence points to the fact that the poorest members of our communities will be the worst affected because they are least able to cope, to move, to adapt and to recover.

“We saw last summer’s heatwaves pose serious risks to health, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the aged and people who were unable to modify their exposure to the elements. It’s interesting to note that heat already kills more people each year than road accidents.

“Our own research – conducted in partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Climate Risk Pty. Ltd. and published only a few months ago – clearly demonstrates the devastating impact on individuals and communities caused by disruptions to critical social infrastructure and services, including aged care, disability services, emergency relief and crisis accommodation to name just a few.

“For instance, we found that up to 25% of service providers might close permanently if their premises were seriously damaged by a severe extreme weather event.

“The climate-driven failure of these services would have untold consequences for the thousands of people and communities they support. It would undoubtedly lead to increased poverty, worse health and mental health, reduced well-being and even death.

“We have argued that community-based organisations play a critical role in mitigating the inequitable social impacts of climate change and that now is the time for us to anticipate the risks and build individual and community resilience.

“This is certainly a critical decade, and we need swift and immediate action if we are to lock in this resilience and shield Australia’s social infrastructure from these consequences.

“ACOSS has developed a comprehensive plan to do just that and stands ready and willing to work with partners from all sectors to implement this crucial work,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

NOTE: Dr Goldie will today speak at the launch of the Climate Commission report, The Critical Decade: Climate science, risks and responses. For more information contact [email protected]

See ACOSS Research led by Dr Karl Mallon of Climate Risk, and funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).

More information on ACOSS Climate Change research here.