22 June 2018
This week Hub staff travelled to Alice Springs to talk to delegates at the Developing Northern Australia 2018 conference about how the Hub’s science can inform policy and planning decisions in the north.
The Hub hosted a business leaders breakfast on the second day of the conference to encourage conference delegates to consider how environmental science could be used when making planning and development decisions in northern Australia. Around 50 conference delegates braved the cold Alice Springs morning (the coldest, in fact, since July 2016 at –3.7°C) to find out more.
Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub leader David Karoly kicked off proceedings by introducing the National Environmental Science Program before explaining the changing nature of the climate in northern Australia and the implications for northern development. The north can expect more hot days and warm spells as well as higher average temperatures, rising sea level and fewer but more intense tropical cyclones. While the picture for changes in average rainfall isn’t as clear (see How will rainfall change in Northern Australia over this century?), extreme rainfall events will be more intense. As a result, rainfall-sensitive industries in the north will need to include the possibility of both increases and decreases in future average rainfall in their planning.
Michael Douglas, leader of the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub, spoke next. He presented many examples of research from this Hub that are supporting sustainable development by de-risking conventional economic developments, supporting alternative economic opportunities and evaluating future development scenarios. Activities such as threatened species mapping, investigating environmental and Indigenous water requirements, minesite rehabilitation and developing sustainable grazing guidelines are already resulting in positive economic and social outcomes.
Brendan Wintle, director of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub wrapped up the presentations by discussing how TSR Hub research can contribute to identifying planning options that balance agricultural and conservation needs. By combining species distribution modelling with spatial prioritisation mapping, the TSR Hub has developed strategic impact assessments that highlight high conservation value areas within proposed developments. By incorporating these considerations early in development planning, surprises and conflicts can be minimised.
Attendees were keen to discuss the work showcased in the presentations, with many taking the opportunity to chat further with the presenters and Hub knowledge brokers at the conclusion of the event. It was clear that many had not considered the potential applications or value of environmental science and were keen to explore the possibilities.
The ESCC Hub also had a steady stream of visitors to our stand in the exhibition area throughout the two days of the conference. As well as information about climate change science and the Hub – including our latest publication examining rainfall change in northern Australia – the stand had information from the NAER Hub, TSR Hub and Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub.
While environmental science can often be perceived as being in conflict with development, our discussions and presentations at the Developing Northern Australia conference showed that economic and environmental outcomes can both be enhanced by its application.