A new Charles Darwin University (CDU) project will explore how extreme weather events are affecting where Australians choose to live and how this migration could have consequences for service provisions, infrastructure planning, disaster management and more.
Associate Professor Kerstin Zander and Associate Professor Andrew Taylor from CDU’s Northern Institute, and Professor Mamoun Alazab from CDU’s Faculty of Science and Technology recently were awarded $351,000 through the Australian Research Council’s Discover Project 2024 to conduct the study.
The project’s aim is to understand the relationship between population dynamics and extreme weather events.
“We aim to assess whether, and to what extent, different extreme weather events have affected where people choose to live and how it affects the make-up of the communities affected,” Associate Professor Zander said.
“By looking at historical data collected by the census and climate data we intend to build a model that can where people will move to as the climatic changes. Forecasting human mobility under different climate risk scenarios in Australia will then allow planners to prepare for the changes - where to build new school, health facilities, or where to provide extra support so people might be able to stay where they are.”
Associate Professor Zander said with the increased severity of weather events, it was critical to understand how society can prepare for future disasters.
“Fires, heat and drought are all related events, and their increasing intensity will only get worse as the climate changes,” she said.
“It is too late to avoid the impacts - we must start to adapt. Some people adapt by moving away from areas they think are getting too hot or too risky to live. This could have widespread consequences for urban and regional planning. While the effects may not be imminent, the frequency of these events seem to be accelerating and we need to rethink adaptation and demographic change now, or it will be too late and too costly.
“For a long time, the extreme consequences of climate change, and radical responses such as migration from uninhabitable regions, have been dismissed as too far in the future to worry about.
“We are just at the beginning to grasp how adaptation to unbearable heat and other natural hazards change our society and what we can do to help people to cope. We want our research will help in that process. And there is no better to base the research than hot, humid Darwin.”
CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Steve Rogers congratulated the researchers on their funding success.
“This project is one of the many that show how Charles Darwin University’s eminent researchers are committed to tackling real-world challenges and contributing to the solutions,” Professor Rogers said.
“We are dedicated to producing relevant, significant and high-quality research that makes an impact and supports our community.”
The project will commence from 2024 for three years.