Contemporary Australian society is currently addressing the impacts of climate change as the nation deals with hotter dryer summers leading to water shortages and the prediction of continuing shortages over the long term, as well as more dramatic cyclonic and storm events. We accept than human induced climate change is occurring and that responses can be seen as a continuum from dealing with the immediate risk, through adaptation to long term mitigation. All levels of Australian society are now responding to climate change and this workshop, and subsequent book, aims to show how people and communities from differing locations and climate change experiences have come to understand and respond to climate change and its varying impacts. In addition to coping with drought, storms, flooding and bushfires, decisions are being made with an eye to longer term climatic implications. From discussions with colleagues listed in this application it is clear that people, communities and institutions are responding in a wide variety of ways. The aim of this project is to show how individuals, communities and organisations across regional Australia are responding to climate change impacts.

Specific objectives of this project include identifying how people understand climate variability and extremes and then move to appropriate risk management, adaptation and mitigation responses.

While risk management is now seen as every-day practice by organisations, mitigation requires national responses through taxation incentives, energy pricing and carbon trading schemes. Invitees to the workshop will be asked to focus particularly on adaptation responses as our regional community research suggests that these types of responses are most common at the local and regional level1. Using social science research based on the social learning literature2 as it is applied in adaptation planning and management strategies by government and NGOs3, invitees will be asked to consider how people in their respective research locations, have responded to local and regional impacts of climate change.

The task of the workshop will be to identify the various categories and themes that will contribute to the compendium. It is anticipated that themes will emerge from the deliberately eclectic group of social science researchers participating in the project. Our practice is to engage with people and communities as we learn about sustainable choices, which is reflected in the epistemological framework we are asking potential authors to adopt for their analysis of communities in places and communities they research.

These categories may well be around place, or around functions or specific issues. Drought, reduced water supply and changing agriculture are overlapping themes which we expect to be identified across the contributions to the project. Their geography might, however, provide us with interesting differences in the way people respond. Equally coastal, inland, urban, rural and remote perspectives require different responses. We want to show how communities come to learn about the climatic situations they face and how they learn to respond. How do institutions develop both coping and planning strategies with their communities? How are the principles and practices of social learning (so evident in institutions like Landcare, for example) applied to climate change responses?

  1. See Qld Government (2006) ‘Climate Smart Adaptation: An Evaluation report on public submissions, Section on Enabling Action, p. 3.
  2. See R. Ison (2005) ‘Traditions of Understanding: Language, Dialogue and Expereince’ in Keen, M., Brown Valerie A. and Dyball, Robert Social Learning in Environmental Management. Earthscan, London.
  3. See G. Stankey, R. N. Clark and B. T. Bormann (2005) Adaptative Management of Natural Resources: Theory, Concepts and Management Institutions, United States Department of Agriculture, accessed 14 August, 2007.