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Australia: Rising Sea Will Cost $226B

Monday, September 22, 2014

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With most of its resources close to the coast, Australia faces havoc with its infrastructure and, possibly, its economy in the decades to come, scientists warn.

The "sleeping giant of climate change" will potentially expose $226 billion in commercial, industrial, road and rail, and residential assets to flooding and erosion, according to "Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding," the latest report from Australia's Climate Council.

Flickr / Paul Toogood via the Climate Council's report

Climate change and an increase in sea levels could cause an estimated $51 billion to $67 billion in damage to Australia's roads and rails, according to a new report from the Climate Council.

The Climate Council is an independent, crowd-funded organization that provides information on climate change to the Australian public. The council succeeded the Australian Climate Commission when a new government took office in 2013.

Global Tally: $1 Trillion

The $226 billion price tag is based on the scenario that the sea level could rise 1.1 meters (43.3 inches) by the year 2100.

Globally, coastal flooding could cause losses of up to $1 trillion by 2050; by 2100. global losses are estimated at 0.3-9.3 percent of global GDP per year.

While the scientists said this is the high-end projection, they called it "quite plausible," adding that it "is a scenario for global economic collapse."

According to the report, the global average sea level rose by 17 centimeters (6.69 inches) throughout the 20th century.

Key Findings

The council's report identified six key findings.

coastal infrastructure
Climate Council

Australia's $226 billion price tag is based on the scenario that the sea level could rise 1.1 meters (43.3 inches) by the year 2100. While the scientists said this is the high-end projection, they called it "quite plausible."

  • The sea level has already risen and continues to rise. "Climate change exacerbates coastal flooding from a storm surge as the storm rides on higher sea levels," the report said.
     
  • With its critical infrastructure mainly located on the coast, Australia is "highly vulnerable" to increasing coastal flooding. "Australia's infrastructure has been built for the climate of the 20th century and is unprepared for rising sea level," the scientists say
     
  • "If the threat of sea level is ignored, the projected increases in economic damage caused by coastal flooding are massive."
     
  • Australia's species and iconic natural places are at risk.
     
  • "Rising sea level is eroding the viability of coastal communities on islands in the Torres Strat and the Pacific and in low-lying areas of Asia, increasing the likelihood of migration and resettlement."
     
  • "We need deep and urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this decade and beyond if we are to avoid the most serious risks from rising sea levels and coastal flooding."

Affected Assets

Coastal assets at risk, and their 2008 replacement value, include:

  • 5,800 to 8,600 commercial buildings, with a value of $58 billion to $81 billion;
  • 3,700 to 6,200 light industrial buildings, with a value of $4.2 billion to $6.7 billion; and
  • 27,000 to 35,000 km of roads and rail, with a value of $51 billion to $67 billion.

Those figures don't include thousands of residential buildings, worth an estimated $72 billion, that face destruction, the report said.

Additionally, within 200 meters of the coastline, the country has 120 ports; five power stations; 258 police, fire, and ambulance stations; 75 hospitals and health centers; and 44 water and waste facilities.

Daily Flooding in the Future

The report said sea level is likely to increase by 0.4 meters (15.7 inches) to 1.0 meter (39 inches) through the 21st century. An increase of 0.5 meters would mean that 100-year flood events would occur every few months.

Australia Gold Coast
Flickr / HolidayPointAu via the Climate Council's report

According to the report, the global average sea level rose by 17 centimeters (6.69 inches) throughout the 20th century.

Sydney, the most populated city, is particularly vulnerable and would see those floods "every day or so" by 2100.

"If you look at some of our most vulnerable areas, and the Sydney region is one of those, you would say toward the end of this century that a one-in-100-year flood is going to be happening every few days," Professor Will Steffen, the report's lead author, told ABC Radio Australia.

"That's an impossible situation to cope with."

   

Tagged categories: Australia; Climate monitoring; Commercial Buildings; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Infrastructure; Research; Roads/Highways

Comment from Stuart Ross, (8/17/2015, 1:05 AM)

"According to the report, the global average sea level rose by 17 centimeters (6.69 inches) throughout the 20th century. The $226 billion price tag is based on the scenario that the sea level could rise 1.1 meters (43.3 inches) by the year 2100. While the scientists said this is the high-end projection,.....scenario for global economic collapse." What a load of Bovine Excrement and fear mongering.


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