Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Climate change threatens Australia's coastal lifestyle, report warns

Toni O’Loughlin in the Guardian (UK): Beach culture is as much part of the Australian identity as the bush and barbecues, but that could have to change according to a government report that raises the unsettling prospect of banning its citizens from coastal regions at risk of rising seas.

The report, from a parliamentary climate change committee, said that AUS$150bn (£84bn) worth of property was at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent storms. With 80% of Australians living along the coastline, the report warns that "the time to act is now''.

Australia has no national coastal plan despite the prospect of losing large swaths of coastal land as each centimetre rise in sea levels is expected to carve a metre or more off the shoreline. If sea levels rise 80cm by 2100, some 711,000 homes, businesses and properties, which sit less than 6m above sea level and lie within 3km of the coast, will be vulnerable to flooding, erosion, high tides and surging storms.

…Skirmishes between residents and local councils are already erupting up and down the coast over erosion by the sea. On the far north coast of New South Wales, the state government has intervened to allow residents in the Byron shire council to build seal walls to protect their homes from rising sea levels. A similar battle is being waged further south at Taree. Meanwhile insurance companies are refusing to insure properties in seaside towns.

Among the report's 47 recommendations are that the government could consider "forced retreats", and prohibiting the "continued occupation of the land or future building development on the property due to sea hazard"...

Broulee, New South Wales, Australia in 1843, A watercolour and gouache by John Skinner Prout

No comments: