The critical decade: Victorian climate impacts and opportunities

25 July, 2012

Victoria's climate is already changing and is likely to change further in the future, posing significant risks to the state and its various levels of infrastructure.

Many types of climate-related extreme events are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in the future.

The heatwaves, drought and bushfires of the past decade provide Victorians with a window into that future.

The number of hot days has increased over the last few decades and is expected to continue increasing into the future. Critical infrastructure, such as roads, railways and power lines, is vulnerable to prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

Conditions for large and intense bushfires are likely to become more common in the future. The number of 'very high' and 'extreme' fire danger days could increase significantly over the next few decades.

Over the last 40 years much of eastern and southern Australia has become drier, with Victoria experiencing a 10-20 per cent reduction in autumn and winter rain over the last 20 years.

Global sea-level rise is tracking near the highest levels scientists expect. This means that a potential one-metre rise over this century is a serious risk threatening Victoria's iconic beaches, and thousands of residential and commercial buildings.

The next chapter of the climate story is about how Victoria, and Australia, can find solutions that minimise the risks of climate change while providing extra benefits for our health, community, economy and environment. Harnessing clean energy, taking advantage of new economic opportunities and building sustainable communities can all provide new opportunities for Victorians.

Victoria has substantial renewable energy resources. Victoria receives enough energy from the sun to produce double the state's current energy needs, and parts of Victoria have some of the best conditions in the world to harness wind energy.

Around the world, investment in renewable energy is growing strongly and costs are rapidly coming down. For instance, in some countries the cost of solar electricity is now competitive with retail electricity prices.

Making our cities more sustainable can also make them healthier and more livable, while reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Improving the environmental performance of buildings, for instance by using more energy efficient lighting, heating, cooling and refrigeration, offers opportunities to save energy costs and provide healthier conditions for workers. Melbourne has world class examples of green buildings.