Councillors were hit with an avalanche of papers on climate change at the recent meeting of Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, with 329 pages to read if they felt so inclined.
To save paper, the five sets of "documents under separate cover" were published on the council's website, rather than printed out.
They were put together in response to a request from Councillor Leigh Bowden last year that Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council (CGRC) prepare a report on climate change.
General Manager Phil McMurray said there was no need to prepare a separate report at this stage, because a lot of work had already been done on the subject by insurance companies, who were highly attuned to the risks posed by climate change.
He said Statewide Mutual (a self-insurance company now with membership of 117 NSW councils) had prepared a climate change report based on a study of many councils, as far back as 2009.
This, he said, had been followed up with a specific report prepared for Gundagai Shire Council, which would also be useful for CGRC to update its policies and for future strategic planning.
In addition, councillors were provided with a NSW government discussion paper on "risk management and internal audit framework for local government", together with a highly critical response by councils in the Riverina.
Suggested reading was topped off with the 106-page 2019 "Global Risks Report" of the World Economic Forum, prepared by two of the world's largest insurance companies, Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance.
The Gundagai report did not recommend any actions the council could take to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, focusing entirely on what the council would need to do to adapt to the impacts of climate change such as faster deterioration of roads due to higher temperatures.
Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council is currently preparing a report on measures it can take to reduce emissions, which will be presented to its next meeting on Tuesday February 25 in Cootamundra.
The Gundagai report said there was still some scepticism about the cause of climate change, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had found it was "very likely" due to human activities.
"The debate has moved beyond the causes of climate change and evaluating the credibility of its science," the report said.
"The causes of climate change (be it human activity or other phenomena) make little difference with regard to adapting to the impacts that we cannot avoid.
"Whether we are prepared for the impacts of climate change in the future depends on today's effective risk management."
The Gundagai report was based on CSIRO data from 2006 relative to the year 2030, forecasting that NSW's climate would become warmer, with more hot days and fewer cold nights, and more frequent droughts.
According to CSIRO, there would also be a greater risk of fire, an increase in flash flooding, more demand for peak summer cooling, reduced energy demand for winter heating, an increase in heat-related deaths for people over 65, and more stress on water resources.
"Councils will be heavily involved in the nation's adaptation process, because many impacts require treatment at a local level," the report stated.
One of the risks the report warned of was that building codes could become inappropriate due to high wind levels, flooding or increased risk of bushfire.
Another risk could be an increase in accidents caused by bushfires and floods and an increased risk of heat stress and disease from vectors (e.g. mosquitoes).
There could also be higher insurance costs as a reult of increased claims, and councils could bear higher costs from erosion, contamination, landslides etc. due to extreme weather events.
The report, entitled Climate Change Adaptation Risk Assessment, was prepared for Statewide Mutual with the assistance of a consultancy, Echelon Australia Pty Ltd.
In its introduction, it stated that its focus was planned adaptation, not mitigation.
It recommended that Gundagai Shire Council should review its adaptation plans and risk assessments regularly, and take into account changes in climate change data. It also recommended climate change risk management and adaptation plans be included in strategic planning processes.
It then set out detailed plans outlining specific risks and how they could be dealt with. For the most part, the report concluded that current controls were adequate.
For example, in its scenario for increased temperatures leading to roads, footpaths and bridges degrading at a faster rate, it said the current controls, such as routine maintenance and incident reporting, would be sufficient to address the risk.
At its meeting on January 28 councillors adopted the reports with little discussion, agreeing they would be "taken into account" when updating council policies.