Appendix D: Future Scenario Narratives

Appendix D of the Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit.

These scenarios have been modified from work done by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries with communities in southwestern Victoria under the Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Program (VCCAP); Soste, L. (2010), Victorian Climate Change Adaptation Program: Scenario Theme Technical Report, Department of Primary Industries, Tatura Victoria.


Scenario name Destabilising world
Key themes   Upper bound of the A1FI emissions scenario. High levels of global co-operation. China and India are economically strong. World continues to rely heavily on energy from fossil-fuels. Climate change is severe and accelerates rapidly.
Time period   2012-2050


Scenario summary

Global average temperatures continue to increase steadily at or above the upper envelope of the IPCC projections. In southeastern Australia, historical records for the number of days above 35oC are exceeded almost every year. This compounds existing health problems such as the obesity epidemic.

Intense and devastating bushfires are frequent in Victoria. Asthma becomes a real problem in the hotter months due to frequent smoke haze from bushfires. Extreme storms produce major losses in agriculture and other industries. Rainfall in southeast Australia is becoming increasingly erratic. Reduced and less reliable water availability also brings significant change in government and community attitudes towards water use and water-intensive industries. Water management becomes fully regulated by government.

Sea-level rise is causing increasing problems in coastal areas of Victoria. Storm surges are exacerbating the plight of low-level coastal habitats and settlements. Competition for land continues to drive up prices in southwest Victoria.

Lifestylers are increasingly moving to the temperate coastal zone.

In the business world, China and India have weathered the global economic downturn. They continue to grow, but at a moderate rate of 6%-9%. Coal continues to be the primary source for electrical energy. The use of nuclear energy is also increasing, and Australian exports rise.

Asian demand for Australian quality-controlled milk, meat and fresh fruit is high. The uneven impact of climate change on commodity prices means that only some sectors can pay these wages. The resurgence of the mining industry means that getting labour in agricultural regions is difficult.

The pilot program for carbon sequestration is successful. It proves that we can use technology to manage CO2. The carbon price is rising. Climate change seems to be happening faster than we thought it would. Scientists are warning of a breakdown in fundamental ecosystem services. Climate refugees from the Asia-Pacific appear in increasing numbers in Australia. Concern for the environment is replaced with concern for self in these harsh conditions. /

Sectoral details

Energy supply

Coal continues to be the primary source for electrical energy. The use of nuclear energy is also increasing, and Australian exports rise. OPEC ensures that oil prices climb to painful levels as the global economy gets back on its feet. Coal to oil becomes profitable. Countries seek to reduce their dependence on fossil-fuel oil. Large scale substitutes are being trialled.


Water management

Significantly reduced water availability also brings significant change in government and community attitudes. The Federal Government takes over responsibility for water management. Water availability is heavily regulated. Farmers have to monitor their water use and pay a high price for every drop. The timber industry is required to make contributions to water recycling plants to compensate for the reduced runoff from their plantations. Irrigated dairy in northern Victoria disappears.


Emergency services

Increasingly frequent storms, flash flooding, heatwaves and bushfires put severe pressure on emergency services, including their employees and volunteers. Often, one natural disaster is followed by another, not allowing enough time for recovery and improving their levels of disaster preparedness.


Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Agriculture becomes increasingly opportunistic. The overall reduction in rainfall produces significantly lower crop yields. Extreme storms produce major losses in what is left. GM advances are not effective early in this period and farmers struggle to adapt. Any commodity that survives both the low rainfall and the storms gets a good price, but this is patchy in location and timing. Weakened stock and crops are plagued by anthrax, locusts and other pests and diseases.

Global wheat production levels escalate due to enhanced growing seasons in the northern hemisphere and the price falls dramatically.

Chinese demand for Australian quality-controlled milk, meat and fresh fruit is high. Timber harvesting, loading and inter-modal transport technology is revolutionised. Fertiliser costs are becoming prohibitively high. Low grain prices and land close to a major port leads to strong development of intensive livestock industries (cattle, mutton, lamb).


Transport and infrastructure

Australian Government economic stimulus packages provide a program of strong infrastructure spending. In the middle of the period public/private partnerships (PPP’s) provide good quality tolled infrastructure.


Economic development

In the business world, China and India have weathered the global economic downturn much better than the rest of the world. They continue to grow, but at a moderate rate (6%-9%). Confidence in Wall St is re-established. The inter-governmental planning required deal with the financial crisis results in high levels of global co-operation. The global focus is to re-establish growth, and global confidence in technological solutions is high. In Australia, the tax system is overhauled.

Towards the end of the period, the Government is forced to spend an increasing proportion of its budget on aged-care. China’s growth sends the $A to the high US$0.70’s as demand for coal and iron-ore starts to rise again.

The Australian mining industry is booming. The uneven impact of climate change on commodity prices means that only some sectors can pay these wages.

In agricultural regions, getting labour is like getting a plumber - $100/hr or they don’t come. The carbon price starts at $23/tonne and is rising after the launch of emissions trading. The pilot program for carbon sequestration is successful. It proves that we can use technology to manage CO2.


Biodiversity and ecosystems

Sea-level rise is causing problems in low-lying coastal areas around the world. Storm surges and saltwater intrusion are exacerbating the plight of low-level coastal habitats, and the degradation of existing coastal reserves causes increasing concern. Scientists are warning of a breakdown in fundamental ecosystem services.


Land use and settlements

Sea-level rise and storm surges lead to increasing coastal erosion, causing significant damage to low-level settlements and impacting on the value of real estate assets. Competition for land continues to drive up prices in southwest Victoria. Lifestylers are increasingly moving to the temperate coastal zone, and settlement land increasingly competes with agricultural use. Land-holdings become a powerful asset in the southwest of Victoria.


Public health

Heat is causing problems with the elderly. Smoke haze becomes a regular feature of the skyscape, and asthma becomes a real problem. Food security and food access is becoming increasingly difficult for lower socio-economic groups, as food and transport prices are on the rise. This contributes to increasingly poor diets. Researchers report increasing signs of an obesity epidemic, in particular amongst young people.


Community development

Financial stress in families increases significantly, as commodity prices continue to rise rapidly. Farming families are particularly affected.

Climate has created a ‘new poor’ in other regions of Victoria as people try to sell, but find their property value significantly diminished. Climate refugees appear in increasing numbers, from other parts of Australia as well as from overseas.

International student populations decrease due to the continuously high Australian dollar. Concern for the environment and community values is increasingly replaced with concern for self in these harsh conditions. The pressure of dealing with change causes townspeople to increasingly withdraw into a world of air-conditioned comfort and distractions. Sales of computer games on holographic TV’s are on the rise.


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Scenario name   Sustainable world
Key themes Mid-range of the B1 emissions scenario. High levels of global economic co-operation. Moderate growth in China and most of the world. Major shift to renewable energy. Climate change occurs gradually.
Time period  2012-2050


Scenario summary

While rainfall variability and extreme weather events continue to cause problems, climate change appears to be occurring at a rate to which most of society and the natural world can adapt.

The global credit crisis of 2008-13, with its historical focus on profit, has produced much pain worldwide, triggering a rapid transformation of global financial and economic systems. China and India continue to grow at a subdued but steady rate.

Decarbonisation, clean production and renewable energy development are the main drivers of the global economy. While capitalism remains the global financial system of choice, a powerful shift is occurring in our thinking, with financial sustainability being increasingly considered equally important as social and environmental values. The global market price for carbon is on a trajectory to exceed $100/tonne.

Public opinion has shifted towards fossil fuels being increasingly seen as dirty. Second generation biofuels, such as algal fuel, provide viable alternative energy sources. Australian farmers move into low energy farming systems. Lower, yet more sustainable yields are increasingly favoured by ethical investors and consumers. Commodity prices remain strong.

Australia has a good brand name for clean, traceable production systems. In addition to its globally integrated emissions trading scheme, Australia initiates a market for the provision of ecosystem services. This attracts an increasingly large flow of foreign capital into the country.

Carbon stored in building products is allowed as a credit, which strengthens investment in the timber industry. Government investment in infrastructure during 2010-2020 has been unprecedented. New transport systems have focused on high-speed rail with well-developed road nodes and intermodal connectivity.

Electric, solar and hydrogen vehicles change the face of individual mobility and transport systems. Southwest Victoria is one of the most favoured regions in Australia due to its ideal mix of climate, lifestyle opportunities and high standard of infrastructure. The benign climate of the southwest is particularly attractive to retirees. The major coastal centres are experiencing ongoing population growth, which is managed by strict urban planning and development focused on sustainable land use and energy efficiency. Lifestyle investment goes to new heights, and tensions with agriculture arise.

Aged-care for the surviving baby-boomers is well established in a policy environment increasingly focused on sustainability and human well-being.


Regional drivers

Energy supply

Fossil fuel use rapidly declines as renewable energy is favoured by the rising carbon price and gradually shifting public opinion. Australia realises its potential in the renewables sector, and solar and wind generated power steadily increases its share in the energy mix. Second generation biofuels, such as algal fuel, provide viable alternative energy sources. Southwest Victoria, with its favourable agricultural conditions, high wind speeds and long coastline becomes a centre for alternative energy production in Australia.


Water management

Rainfall variability continues to affect the southwest region, in particular farming on marginal land and increasing domestic water use due to population growth. Water restrictions remain common for some time, but increasing water efficiency and new water recycling technologies provide increasing water supply security.


Emergency services

The intensity and frequency of natural disasters, such as heatwaves, bushfires, storms and flash flooding, continue to rise due to gradual climate change and ongoing population growth in the southwest of Victoria. However, improved building standards and smart rezoning following sustainable land use principles increasingly contribute to disaster risk reduction. Emergency service providers increase their services in emergency preparedness and awareness raising.


Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Climate change is occurring at a rate to which agriculture can adapt. Australian farmers move into low energy farming systems. The focus shifts to growing the right crop in the right conditions.

Plantings of indigenous species, breeding to exploit genetic diversity in wild varieties and the extraction of nutraceuticals have now become the norm. Lower sustainable yields are acceptable to the new breed of ethical investors.

Commodity prices are strong. Government regulation has increased to ensure quality, but technology has simplified the process. Satellite observations plot date, time and extent of planting, treatment and harvesting activity.


Transport and infrastructure

Government investment in infrastructure during 2010-2020 has been unprecedented. New transport systems have focused on high-speed rail with well-developed road nodes and intermodal connectivity. Electric, solar and hydrogen vehicles change the face of individual mobility and transport systems.


Economic development

The US recovery from the high levels of borrowing needed to finance the debt crisis of 2008-13 is slow. With lower levels of debt, and some capacity to increase their internal consumption of goods, China and India continue to grow at a subdued but steady rate.

The global credit crisis of 2008-13, with its historical focus on profit, has produced much pain worldwide. While capitalism remains the global financial system of choice, a powerful shift has occurred in our thinking. Everyone now realises that sustainability matters. The global market price for carbon exceeds $100/tonne. Fossil-fuels are increasingly seen as dirty.

China’s growth is less strong than the heady days of 2005-08, but it sets a sustainable tone for the rest of the world. The impact on Australian coal exports is enormous. Iron ore and uranium are good staples. Australia has a good brand name for clean, traceable production systems.


Biodiversity and ecosystems

In addition to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Australia initiates a market for the provision of ecosystem services. This attracts an increasingly large flow of super funds and also foreign capital into the country, which is re-invested into habitat and biodiversity conservation. The southwest of Victoria, with its diverse coastal habitat and remnant primary forests benefits from these investments. Protected areas are expanded to compensate for sea level rise and other forms of habitat deterioration. This leads to conflicts over land use between conservationists, the timber industry, agriculture and tourism.


Land use and settlements

Southwest Victoria is one of the most favoured regions in Australia due to its ideal mix of climate, lifestyle opportunities and high standard of infrastructure. The major coastal centres are experiencing ongoing population growth, which is managed by strict urban planning and development focused on sustainable land use and energy efficiency. Lifestyle investment goes to new heights, and tensions with agriculture arise.


Public health

Most threats to public health are caused by an ageing population, increasing population growth and density, and the impacts of extreme weather events. A gradual shift towards healthier lifestyles can be observed, and substantial effort is made to end the obesity and diabetes epidemics.


Community development

The benign climate of the southwest is particularly attractive to retirees. Aged care for the surviving baby-boomers is well established in a policy environment increasingly focused on sustainability and human well-being. Community sector organisations are considered a cornerstone of social sustainability, receiving significant support from government.


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Page last updated: Thursday, 5 January 2017

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