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Australia's coasts + climate change « Previous | |Next »
November 15, 2009

Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coasts reinforces the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the ArtsInquiry into climate change and environmental impacts on coastal communities that I mentioned here. The former report is Australia's first national coastal assessment, and it brings together existing and new information to highlight the scale of problem Australia faces as a vulnerable coastal nation.

It states that there is an increasing recognition that sea-level rise of up to a metre or more this century is plausible, and possibly of several metres within the next few centuries. 1.1 metres was selected as a plausible value for sea-level rise for the risk assessment based on IPPC science, and these sea levels will bring significant change to Australia’s coastal zone in coming decades:

With a mid range sea-level rise of 0.5 metres in the 21st century, events that now happen every 10 years would happen about every 10 days in 2100.The current 1-in-100 year event could occur several times a year ... With much of Australia’s infrastructure concentrated in the coastal zone around centres of population, climate change will bring a number of risks to built environment assets.

Queensland stood to be the worst affected (Moreton Bay, Mackay, the Gold Coast, Fraser Coast, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast), then NSW (Lake Macquarie, Wyong, Gosford, Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Rockdale), then Victoria (Kingston, Hobsons Bay, Greater Geelong, Wellington and Port Phillip).

In SA the most vulnerable area to a sea-level rise of 1.1 metres, is Port Adelaide, which is located between the Gulf St Vincent and the Port River near Adelaide, and which is experiencing local land subsidence, due to wetland reclamation and groundwater extraction from the aquifer. It will require the construction of a system of sea walls to protect against inundation.

Yorke Peninsula is also vulnerable, followed by the Kingston and Robe region of the southern coast and the Glenelg foreshore in Adelaide. In spite of this vulnerability the Department of environment and Heritage's 2004 Living Coast Strategy makes no mention of rising sea levels.

It is on the radar of SA Coast Protection Board as there is a long history of allowance for sea level rise in local planning in South Australia Current provisions for sea level rise in development plans around the state allow for sea level rise of 300 mm over 50 years, plus the capability of being protected against further sea level rise of 0.7 meters, using protective measures such as sea walls and setbacks.

The proposed emissions trading scheme, which has been diluted by huge concessions to incumbent power producers, exporters and mining companies and in all probability will be further diluted by excluding agriculture from the scheme ''indefinitely'' will make no difference to rising sea levels. In contrast, US farmers are benefiting from a voluntary cape and trade scheme. A low level mitigation means greater adaptation.

Ziggy Switkowski in his We are already adapting to warming in The Australian says:

And when reports suggest that hundreds of thousands of homes and many billions of dollars of property will be at risk from surging tides this is not necessarily a consequence of rising sea levels but a result of population growth and our inclination to locate ourselves and our expensive belongings ever closer to the coast....Changes in sea levels have not translated into observable changes in insurance claims associated with coastal and riverine flooding....To be sure, annual aggregate insurance costs continue to rise sharply but so far these are caused by societal factors and not anthropogenic climate change.Our continent is especially vulnerable to meteorological hazards so climate-driven shifts should be detected early and none has been, yet.

Coastal flooding is caused by societal factors? Really? Floods, cyclones and bushfires have now become such a fixture of the insurers' landscape that they can no longer be viewed as one-off incidents. They are now seen by insurance companies as an effect of climate change on our weather patterns and this results in a repricing of risk by insurers. That means increasing premiums, not just for beach houses but for towns and cities.

It's not just Pacific Islands, beach houses and remote Arctic outposts falling into the sea. Have a look at these images of Shishmaref village on Alaska's remote west coast, which reveal the tip of a permafrost terrain melting very fast.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:07 AM | | Comments (2)


It would appear that a majority of Coalition senators oppose the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bill (its around 23 out of 37 Senators). However, the scheme will still pass as Labor only needs an extra seven votes.

I wonder if they deny the science around rising sea levels and their effect on coastal communities to the same extent.

I know that Tony Abbott does. Its all much ado about nothing according to him.