October 27, 2009
Yesterday a new report was tabled in Federal Parliament by the all-party House of Representatives Climate Change, Environment, Water and the Arts Committee entitled Managing our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate: the Time to Act is Now. It urges the Federal Government to take greater charge of protecting the nation's coastline in co-operation with state and local governments.
The report articulates a deep sense of foreboding that many of us have. There is going to be a lot of suffering in spite of strategies to 'mitigate the effects of rising temperatures, wild and unpredictable weather events, increasing drought and rising sea levels; and the development of 'adaptation' strategies to enhance the resilience of coastal communities to climate change impacts.
From the Northern Territory, Queensland, NSW, Victoria, SA to WA coastal regions and communities are at risk from rising sea levels and there will have to be a retreat from some areas of the coast. Eighty per cent of Australians live in the coastal zone facing major pressures, and that concentration of people and infrastructure makes Australia particularly vulnerable to the coastal erosion and inundation that will accompany increases in sea level'.
In South Australia the report states that:
More than 60,000 buildings along the State’s coast are likely to be at risk from sea-level rise, coastal flooding and erosion. A subsiding coastline across Lefevre Peninsula and Barker Inlet will exacerbate the impacts of rising sea levels.
The extent of rising sea levels--it depends on how much the Greenland icesheet and western Antarctica melt--- is unclear. A consensus based on our best knowledge at the moment is emerging that coastal communities work on a judgment that they we will be lucky to get away with 0.5 of a metre and it is more likely to be somewhere around 0.8 to 0.9 metres by 2100.That means around 80-90 metres of shoreline recession---bad news for many coastal communities.
There are difficulties of moving from global sea level rise projections to regional and local projections and we don't have the knowledge yet to map the regional variations in sea level rise. We do know that coastal towns and cities (such as Cairns, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Adelaide) will need to to adapt to the impact of sea level rise. If they cannot adapt they need to retreat.
Hence the emerging public sense of foreboding. Trouble is looming.