The Need for this Research
Australia is highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters with 85% of its population living on the coast (Department of Climate Change [DCC] 2009; Australian Academy of Science 2015). Within Australia the state of Queensland is particularly vulnerable (IPCC 2007, 2012). The 2011 Queensland floods, for example, led to 38 deaths, the inundation of tens of thousands of buildings, and insurance pay-outs of A$2.4 billion (Productivity Commission 2014). The Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast are both located in the South East Queensland region of this State, which has been identified as a climate change ‘vulnerability hotspot’ due to its coastal location, geography, local climate and the distribution of population (IPCC 2007; Burton 2014; IPCC 2014a). These cities are built on low-lying flood-prone land. They are similar in their biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics but have different settlement patterns as can be seen in Fig. 14.1 (DCC 2009; Infrastructure Australia Major Cities Unit 2010; IPCC 2014a).
At the local level, responses to climate-related disasters are heavily influenced by land-use planning and disaster risk reduction policies (Shaw and Theobald 2011; Howes et al. 2013; Howes 2015). While the international focus has been on mitigation, there is an increasing need for adaptation to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, but local governments who are the main stakeholders face some major challenges (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2007; IPCC 2014a; 2014b). Unfortunately politics has driven a decline in climate change policy in Australia and Queensland over the last few years that has significantly affected the case studies (Howes and Dedekorkut-Howes 2013).
Developing a more appropriate response requires an understanding of the underlying drivers of urban vulnerability and resilience as a first step (Berkes 2007; Romero-Lankao and Dodman 2011). Factors such as exposure, sensitivity, lack of coping, and adaptive capacity appear regularly in the relevant research literature (Cutter et al. 2008; United Nations University 2014). It is clear that urban
Fig. 14.1 Low-lying settlements on the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast; a Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast (Courtesy of Skyepics.com.au, May 2013) b Twin Waters, Sunshine Coast (Courtesy of Skyepics.com.au, January 2010) vulnerability has both biophysical and socioeconomic dimensions. The biophysical dimension includes factors such as: location, geography, sea-level rise, the built environment, infrastructure, and natural resources. Socioeconomic vulnerability is an indication of the inability to cope with stresses (Romero-Lankao and Qin 2011), and this in turn is influenced by factors such as: population growth, demography, governance, the economy, wealth, education, health, and social capital.