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Projections for SA

No uncertainty exists as to the possibility of change - Climate Change is definitely happening. The only uncertainty is by how much our climate will be altered? We can limit this change by reducing emissions.

Wait and see
We can’t afford to wait-and-see. Today’s emissions will influence our climate for many years to come; as a result we are already locked-in to at least 1ºC increase – a rise that will produce significant impacts.

The CSIRO’s climate projections for South Australia indicate a future climate that will be both hotter and drier with more extreme weather events. Just how much our climate will be altered will depend on how well we’re able to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions. Business-as-usual (BAU) will leave us experiencing the worst climatic shifts, whilst the best case scenarios will be achieved primarily through emissions reductions and a shift away from fossil-fuel technologies. 1) Temperature

By 2070 temperatures in the north of the state are predicted to increase by 1-6ºC, and by 0.6-4.4ºC in the south of the state.

2) Water

Annual rainfall is predicted to decrease over most of the state, except in the far south-east and north-east (which may experience some increases).

Higher evaporation rates resulting from increased temperatures will mean that in all scenarios there will be a water deficit, leading to increased drought frequency.

3) Extreme weather events

Currently in Adelaide there are on average 10 days a year above 35ºC. This is expected to increase to between 14 to 38 days by 2070.

4) Sea-level rise

Sea level is projected to rise by between 9 and 88 cm by 2100.

Impacts of Climate Change for SA

For SA the effects of Climate Change will be wide-ranging. An altered climate, most notably hotter and drier with more frequent storm events, has the potential to affect the range and biodiversity of ecosystems, agriculture production, human infrastructure, health, and the economy.

None of these impacts are inevitable. We have the ability to reduce the scale and intensity of all impacts through the reduction of Greenhouse gas emissions, and by adapting to the level of Climate Change that remains inevitable.

Breeding Changes
Long-term research on Sleepy Lizards in SA’s mid-north, shows breeding patterns have been altered over time by drier winters and wetter springs.

Nowhere to go
Acacia species – which are common in SA, and include wattles and mulgas - are vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change. 59% of their bioclimates would disappear under 1ºC increase.

Impacting the food-chain
SE Australia has a high-degree of locally endemic marine invertebrates. Extinctions of some of these species are projected with a rise in water temperature of 1-2º C - more widely impacting the system as a whole.

Vulnerable Agriculture
Wine is one of the State’s top five exports. Studies show that Climate Change would have a ‘potentially devastating’ on the industry as increased temperatures facilitate the spread of pests and disease.

Water scarcity
Climate Change may reduce stream-flow in the Murray-Darling Basin by 5% in 20 yrs time and 15% in 50 years, further adding to the woes of a system already on ‘life support’.

Coasts under siege
Areas around Port Adelaide already suffer from land subsidence of up to 10mm/year - a situation that will be exacerbated by sea-level rise. Current planning measures in that area cater for an overall rise of 0.3 metres.

Will we cope
Adelaide currently experiences 14 days on average above 35ºC. This will rise to as many as 38 days by 2070 with the effects of Climate Change.

Increased health risks Adelaide (along with Perth) shows the highest number of heat related deaths in the 65+ age group. These deaths are expected to increase by between 21-47% under Climate Change.

Agricultural Value
With Climate Change impacting water-flows in the Murray-Darling Basin, the value of irrigated agriculture in this region is projected to decrease by between $826m-$1228m by 2100.

Changing markets
Worldwide changes in agricultural productivity (including projections of a worldwide shift in the production of Wheat, Maize and Rice) would impact on global prices and trade.


Biodiversity is severely threatened by the onset of Climate Change, as altered climatic conditions have the potential to affect the range and biodiversity of ecosystems.

Ecosystems are already being altered with changes in the timing of annual processes like breeding cycles, flowering, and migration. Interdependent species (ie birds and the insects they feed on) are slipping ‘dangerously out of sync’.

Terrestrial Systems

In South Australia we have very little native vegetation left and what remains is highly fragmented – existing in only small patches.

Consequently, many species are effectively ‘trapped’ in habitat fragments with very little chance of physically adapting by moving between habitable and uninhabitable fragments.

Marine Systems

Rising temperatures, rising sea-levels, and increased storm-surges will impact marine systems. Coral reefs – where rises in sea-temperature have already caused coral bleaching – are an example of the potential vulnerability of marine systems. In South Australia, a potential risk will be to our remaining mangrove systems, where rising sea-levels will put them under threat.

Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry

The State’s natural resources are highly vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change given the very direct effect of climate on primary production.

Although in general, agriculture in the State is well-adapted to climatic variability, agriculture would be threatened by climatic shift.

Even small changes in temperature and rainfall - that are inevitable under Climate Change projections - have the ability to significantly alter agricultural yields, and in some cases could potentially change the economic viability of existing agriculture.


Water is intrinsically linked to climate. As our climate changes so will the volume and distribution of water within our systems. In South Australia, Climate Change is likely to decrease annual rainfall and increase the number of drought events that we experience.

This is likely to have a marked impact on the amount of water and quality of such water available for use on all levels, including in agricultural and residential systems.


Sea-level rise and an increase in storm-surge events are both factors that could significantly affect coastal regions in South Australia as a result of Climate Change.

Adelaide faces an effective sea-level rise twice that of the rest of Australia. In addition, beach erosion problems already present along the metropolitan coast of Adelaide will be exacerbated by increases in storm-surge events.


Human infrastructure – buildings, roads, drains etc - are adapted to suit our current climate. As our climate alters, existing infrastructure will no longer be optimally-suited, and consequently will need to be adapted to suit different temperature, hydrology and storm regimes.

Storms, floods, heatwaves, droughts and bushfires could all become more frequent under Climate Change projections.

Building design, drainage schemes, and transport infrastructure are all aspects of our built environment that will need to alter to cope with changing climatic conditions.


Risks to human health as a result of Climate Change will occur through increased temperatures and extreme temperature events, as well as a greater prevalence of climate-related diseases such as Dengue Fever and Ross River Virus.

South Australia’s aging population will be particularly vulnerable to these health impacts, as will remote-indigenous and low-income communities.


The wide-ranging effects of Climate Change mean that impacts will be felt across many levels of the State’s economy. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries will be highly sensitive to the effects of Climate Change, whilst electricity, gas, water, construction, and the ownership of dwellings will also be influenced.

In addition to the localised economic impacts, it is predicted that the feedback effects on SA’s economy from the rest of the world – produced primarily by changes in markets and primary production - are likely to cause the most significant impacts.