By 2050 Australia’s population is set to hit 35 million, the number of people displaced by climate change globally is predicted to reach 200 million. How will Australia cope? Lauren Day reports.

Two big issues have dominated the headlines this year and will continue to dominate as the federal election approaches: climate change and refugees.

The debates surrounding these issues have thus far played out parallel to each other but the convergence of the two is imminent. This year, Treasury’s Intergenerational Report projected that Australia’s population would hit 35 million by 2050, the same year in which the International Organisation for Migration predicts there will be 200 million people displaced by climate change globally.

Our neighbours in the Pacific Islands and parts of Asia are the first to face the prospect of leaving their homes due to the changing climate, including sea level rise and extreme weather events. So what are our responsibilities in this mass exodus? How will Australia cope with a vast increase in population and the kind of pressures this could put on our infrastructure, environment and social cohesion? And how will the loss of our own coastline compact the problem?