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Australia frets over coastal impact of climate change

herron island.pngAustralia’s government has been told to invest more in research on the impact climate change will have on its coastlines.

The House of Representatives committee on climate change warned that “the time to act is now” in its new report on climate and coasts. As well as more research, there is a need for more clarity on legal and insurance issues for those living on the coast and better emergency management arrangements, it says.

“This is an issue of national significance. Some 80% of the Australian population live in the coastal zone, and the concentration of Australia’s population and infrastructure along the coast makes us particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, including sea level rise,” says Jennie George, the committee chairwoman (press release).

The committee wants more investment in research on sea level rise, ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, erosion and wave climate, and the impact climate change will have on diseases.

Below the fold: media coverage.

The committee’s report said that A$150 billion ($137 billion) worth of property was at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent storms. Australia is an island continent with 80 percent of its 21 million people living on the coast. Authorities are split on adopting a policy of retreat or defence against rising seas.


The report noted concerns about whether insurers would continue to fully cover properties in higher-risk areas, and said, ”Further investigation of this important matter is urgently required.” The committee wants a Productivity Commission inquiry into the insurance issues.

Canberra Times

Liberal MP Mal Washer is the deputy chair of the committee which just handed down its report, headed The Time to Act is Now. Dr Washer says a limit needs to be set on coastal development and he says it is urgent the Government acts now.

“This is already presenting major problems but in the future it’s going to be a nightmare for us,” he said.


The House of Representatives report, Managing Our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate, has backed a submission from the National Sea Change Taskforce which said coastal councils were ”damned if they do and damned if they do not” approve developments in parts of the coast they believe are vulnerable to future sea level rises.

”If they approve it there could be a liability down the track if it becomes affected and inundated by rising sea levels and the attendant severe weather events,” the taskforce said. ”If they do not approve it they are going to wind up before an appeals tribunal.”

The Age

Image: Herron Island in the Great Barrier Reef / NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


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