What is Adaption?

Adaptation looks at how to reduce the negative effects of climate change and how to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.

Even with comprehensive mitigation we are going to have to adapt. The climate is changing quickly which challenges the ability of both humans and the environment to ‘keep up’, or to adapt successfully and quickly to avoid negative impacts. Adaptation can happen at all levels in society - from individuals up to national and international levels. 

Australia has a high capacity to adapt. We are a relatively affluent country with sturdy institutions and a well-educated and healthy population. 

  • Incremental

    A series of small actions and adjustments which aim to continue to meet the existing goals and expectations of the community in the face of the impacts of climate change. 

    Example: Beach nourishment to upkeep the current shoreline and beach quality, and avoid damage to houses on the sea-front, as sea-level rises.

    Adaptation actions which lead to big changes to community goals and expectations. This has the potential to disrupt communities and their values. In general this type of adaptation is taken when incremental adaptation is no longer working.

    Example: Relocation of an entire suburb or community including homes, businesses and infrastructure, and abandonment of sea-front houses.
    Anticipatory or proactive

    Adaptation that happens before the impacts of climate change are observed.

    Example: Local government stops a new development on a greenfield site located in an area likely to be overpowered during high tides in 50 years time.

    Adaptation that takes place in response to an effect of climate change that has already been experienced.

    Example: Houses that are upgraded to new building standards only after a cyclone destroys their roofs.
    Private adaptation - private benefit

    Adaptation taken by a person or business that benefits only that particular individual or business.

    Example: Installing a water tank to ensure  consistent water availability during a dry spell.
    Private adaptation - public benefit

    Adaptation taken by a person or business that is of benefit both to that person or business but also to the public.

    Example: Farmer taking action to reduce fertiliser runoff and erosion of topsoil during intense rainfall events. This maintains both his own farm and reduces the impact on the environment.
    Public adaptation

    Adaptation handled by a public entity to benefit the wider community.

    Example: A local government undertakes beach nourishment activities to make sure that the beach is available to the public for recreation despite sea-level rise.


  • The following eight plans are helping the Queensland Government to prioritise climate change adaptation activities across the key sectors of our community.

    1. Small and Medium Enterprise Sector Adaptation Plan: This plan aims to lay foundations for collaborative problem solving and positive action for Queensland’s small and medium sized businesses to reduce negative impacts and capture opportunities for the sector to thrive under climate change. 
    2. Biodiversity and Ecosystems Climate Adaptation Plan: This plan looks to lay the foundation for a future of more strategic problem-solving, as well as on the ground action, to minimise the negative impacts of climate change on Queensland’s biodiversity and ecosystems. 
    3. Human Health and Wellbeing Climate Change Adaptation Plan: The goal of this plan is to support human health and wellbeing services helping them to be innovative and resilient in the face of climate change. It also provides a preliminary climate change adaptation framework and guidance for stakeholders across healthcare, aged care and childcare services.
    4. Emergency Management Sector Adaptation Plan: Led by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, this plan outlines a vision, principles and a set of priorities that intend to guide emergency sector climate change adaptation activities. It aims to create an adaptive emergency management sector that is fully engaged with the risks and opportunities of a changing climate.
    5. Agriculture Sector Adaptation Plan: This document highlights current climate adaptation activities within the agriculture sector and carefully considers gaps and barriers to climate adaptation in the farming community.
    6. Built Environment and Infrastructure Sector Adaptation Plan: This plan scopes climate risk for the infrastructure sector, identifies enablers and barriers to addressing these risks, recognises gaps that will hinder adaptation action and sets out a list of eight key priority adaptation actions to follow.
    7. Queensland Tourism Climate Change Sector Adaptation Plan: Climate change is both a risk and opportunity to the Queensland tourism industry. This plan, guided by input from the tourism industry, sets a vision for future-proofing tourism through six key building blocks and priority areas.
    8. Industry and Resources Sector Adaptation Plan: This plan is well underway and due to be released in 2021.
  • Human Settlements and Infrastructure


    • Coastal erosion and damage to our buildings along the coast
    • Increased asset maintenance costs 
    • More frequent disruption to our day to day services due to flooding
    • Increased energy and water usage 
    • Cost of insurance to business and the community may increase as a result of extreme weather

    Potential Responses

    • Consider how to adapt existing homes to deal with climate changes
    • Plan for new any new buildings and infrastructure to take into account extreme climate events and sea-level rise
    • Climate resilient developments (eg. increase the height of roads, more space for multiple waste bins)
    • Insure our public assets

    We're taking action!

    Whitsunday Regional Council has created a Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Strategy, which recognises the impacts climate change may have on council’s operations, environmental and economic values throughout the region. Council is also working on a Coastal Hazard Adaptation Strategy.




    • Increased threats to our tourism infrastructure such as hotels
    • Damage to popular environmental sites like the Great Barrier Reef
    • Risks to tourists who are unfamiliar with extreme weather conditions

    Potential Responses

    • Consider climate risks when emergency planning for tourist sites 
    • Adopt appropriate cancellation policies for extreme weather 
    • Be prepared for a change in seasonal demand

    We're taking action!

    The Hub has developed the Whitsundays “Healthy Heart” project to decarbonise the tourism sector. The aims of this four-year project are to mitigate climate change in the Whitsundays, build resilience to climate change, create green marketing opportunities, enhance the tourism sector’s sustainability and strengthen recovery from COVID-19.


    Business and Industry


    • Disruption to business supply chains 
    • Interference to workplaces and infrastructure
    • Loss of customers during emergency recovery 
    • Changes in fish stocks

    Potential Responses

    • Business continuity planning for increases in extreme weather
    • Move critical infrastructure out of climate hazard zones 
    • Enable flexible working arrangements 
    • Diversify customer base and products accordingly

    We're taking action!

    Whitsunday Industry Resilience Project will see over 60 surveys conducted throughout the region. The research will provide advice on the role that Council and other stakeholders could have in assisting key industries to adapt and build resilience to a changing climate.




    • Changed distribution of pests and diseases 
    •  Heat stress on livestock and crops 
    •  Farms affected by bushfire
    • Water supply may become unreliable

    Potential Responses

    • Create shelterbelts to increase shade for livestock
    • Consider different crop varieties, sowing times or production systems 
    • Improve water efficiency 
    • Manage climate change by using forecasts of rainfall (and temperature) when making decisions about crops and planting times 
    • Observe the spread of pests, weeds and disease
    • Select plant varieties that are more adaptable to a changing and variable climate

    We're taking action!

    The LongPaddock website, created by the Queensland Government, provides climate information, seasonal forecasts and decision making rooms to help Agriculturalists to improve their climate risk management.


    Biodiversity and Iconic Ecosystems


    • Existing threats to flora and fauna are worsened 
    • Habitats are altering 
    • Invasive species are changing

    Potential Responses

    • Create strategies to respond to new diseases and pests 
    • Make our towns more green
    • Link habitats to allow species to move 
    • Consider moving selected populations to new areas 
    • Manage weeds and protect native plant species 
    •  Educate our community on native plant species 
    • Clear vegetation in critical habitats and protect ecosystems that are still intact 
    • Continue to manage the impact of agriculture on runoff into the reef

    We're taking action!

    The Hub is working with James Cook University to map our regions biodiversity and where it may shift with climate change.

    Project Catalyst is a partnership between over 70 innovative Queensland cane growers. It focuses on improving the quality of the water that flows from agricultural areas into the Great Barrier Reef. It provides practical solutions to:

    • Increase water use efficiency
    • Prevent runoff
    • Reduce application of pesticides
    • Better management of soils


    Human Health and Wellbeing


    • Our health and emergency services will be busier and under more stress 
    • An increase in heat-related deaths, particularly among the elderly and disadvantaged 
    • Mental health effects
    • Changes in disease occurrence

    Potential Responses

    • Use existing social networks to support vulnerable community members 
    • Set up mental health care programs 
    •  Consider climate risks when developing emergency planning for schools, hospitals and services 
    • Develop agreements with workers on how to manage 
    • extreme hot days
    •  Clearly identify public cool zones or shaded areas for the community

    We're taking action!

    The Queensland Government has provided guidelines on how to manage excessive heat in schools. The guidelines clearly outline when children need to be protected from excessive heat and give strategies to ensure their safety, such as limiting physical activity during the hottest part of the day.


    Emergency Services


    • Increased fire intensity will affect the edges of our communities 
    • Higher sea level and more intensive storms will affect communities along our coast and increase inland flooding risk

    Potential Responses

    •  Improve bushfire safety standards in urban areas
    • Focus on educating our community helping them be prepared for extreme weather events
    • Update risk management standards to account for increased risk from climate change

    We're taking action!

    Local Emergency Alert has been created to warn local communities about a likely or actual emergency. It sends a voice message to landlines and a text to mobile phones to help individuals in our community prepare for extreme weather conditions and other emergencies.

    Adapted from Climate Change in Queensland.