Climate change is a humanitarian issue

We need to act now to support communities adapt to a changing climate. Every day at Australian Red Cross, we witness the human impacts of extreme weather. In particular, we see the detrimental health and social impacts brought on by more frequent and intense disasters and crises.

Climate change is affecting billions of people worldwide, with those among us experiencing vulnerability most at risk.

The climate change challenges we face

We’re seeing increased variation in our climate and higher temperatures, lower rainfall, more storms and stronger wind speeds are becoming the new standard for ‘normal weather’.

Hotter and drier conditions will lead to longer, more intense heatwaves, droughts and higher fire danger.

Rainfall events, when they occur, are predicted to increase in intensity and with a greater likelihood of flooding.

The intensity of cyclones is predicted to increase in the north and tropics whereas coastal communities across the country will face the dangers of rising sea levels, greater storm surges and an increase in flooding.

Climate change will also have profound impacts on the natural environment.

Parts of Queensland and Northern NSW have recently experienced an unprecedented start to the bushfire season and the outlook from The Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre is for above normal fire potential across Australia in the coming months.

The climate change impacts we witness

The impacts of climate change will not be equally spread.

For example, climate change will see some communities experience more rainfall, while others receive less. Similarly, not every community will see the same increase in the number and duration of heatwaves, and some coastal communities are more susceptible to sea level rise than others.

Climate change is a force multiplier for many of the existing challenges faced by Australians, with those particularly at risk including people who are:

  • socially isolated
  • with a disability
  • experiencing mental illness
  • housebound
  • frail
  • recovering from an illness or accident
  • have an ongoing illness, such as diabetes or a heart condition
  • experiencing financial hardship or homelessness
  • living in remote communities
  • working primarily outside.

In our experience, this often means that migrants, elderly people, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be at higher risk.

The role of Australian Red Cross in a changing climate

Australian Red Cross does not take sides. Our role is to support those whose lives and health are most affected by climate change, and to empower people to take their own actions to adapt and reduce risk.

We believe in the value of fact-based, neutral and constructive solutions.

Globally, we are part of the Red Cross, Red Crescent Climate Centre, to understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change on humanity and how to prepare for it.

Our focus is on the impacts of a changing climate on the health and wellbeing of Australians, especially the most vulnerable in our society, and ensuring they prepare for and recover from more frequent and intense disasters.

Established in Australia more than 100 years ago, we have extensive experience in disaster risk reduction, response and recovery across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

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