Sea Level Rise in Australia
This case study focuses on the sea level rise in Australia. It is with no doubt that rising sea levels are a major impact of the adverse effects climate change and may affect millions of lives in the coming years. Understanding the causes and effects of the rise in sea levels, would further be able to provide solutions to mitigate and provide solutions to this emerging problem in Australia and the whole world. The purpose of the study is to provide clear information on the direct and indirect impacts associated with sea level rise in Australia, to explain why sea level rise is an issue in Australia, to describe the future scenario(s) for Australia following predicted changes in sea level rise and to suggest measures that may be necessary for the people to adequately prepare and/or adapt to the above impacts and scenario(s). This study will include background information to sea level rise in Australia, causes and effects of the rising sea levels, current situation, projected scenarios, and further propose adaptation mechanisms.
It is with no doubt that rising sea levels are a major impact of the adverse effects of climate change and are likely to impact millions of people by the year 2100 (IPCC, 2007). Current satellite data puts 3mm per year as the rate at which the sea level is rising. It is thought that about 23% of the world’s population lives near the coastal zone and hence a rise in the sea levels would affect the lives of many people. Greenhouse gas emissions have contributed heavily to sea level rise and it is proven that accelerated glacial outflow would rapidly contribute to sea level rises. According to John Webb, sea levels were 130m lower than what we have presently and this may only mean detrimental effects on the lives of many people. Some parts of the Australian coastline are potentially exposed to the extreme sea level rises and weather events (Church, 2010). Recent coastal observations confirm that in Australia, sea levels are rising thus increasing the frequency of extreme sea-level events of a given magnitude. It is estimated that in Australia, the rate at which the sea level is rising is about 1.2 mm per year during the 20th century (Church et al. 2006). Further increases in rising sea levels in Australia increase the vulnerability of areas along its coastline to the adverse impacts of the rising sea-level and extreme events.
- Causes of the rise
Recent observations have shown that sea level rises are because of oceans warming due to absorbing more than 80% of heat added to the climate system because of greenhouse gases (GHG’s). This warming has caused the oceans to expand leading to rising sea levels. It is predicted that sea levels would continue to rise in the coming years.
Melting of glaciers is the other cause. According to Webb, the fluctuation of the earth’s orbit has led to higher temperatures, which have melted the glaciers. The Antarctic and Greenland and ice sheets are believed to have contributed to the rising sea level.
Effects of the rising sea levels in Australia
Impact on economy and social groups
Rising sea levels will inundate of coastal areas. It is believed that most areas along the Australian coastlines will be covered with water hence affecting negatively to the lives of people and loss of biodiversity. There is the risk of increased severity of floods and storms. River water levels could rise and affect related infrastructure that include bridges, quays, port structures and embankments (Gilbert& Vellinga, 1990).Coastal erosions could be more evident because of sea level rises.
Impact on ecology
It is believed that rise in sea levels would lead to erosion of the shorelines, exacerbate coastal flooding, inundation of coastal wetlands and lowlands, salt-water intrusion into aquifers and estuaries, alter tidal ranges in rivers and bays, change locations where rivers deposit sediments and drown coral reefs. All these may have negative impacts to agriculture, fisheries, shipping, waste disposal, recreation, coastal protection and biodiversity.
The Australian Federal government shares jurisdiction with state governments over coastal management but coastal planning is the role of state governments. Recent efforts have ensured coordinated efforts leading to each state setting sea level rising planning benchmarks. Failure to include sea level rising in coastal planning may lead to legal suits (Taberner & Voros, 2010). Local governments receive policy guidelines by state governments, financial assistance for adaptation measures and access to accurate scientific information about the coastal impacts of climate change.
Adaptation to the rise
According to Gilbert & Vellinga, 2010 timing and selection of adaptive responses would depend on the physical, social, economic and political situations of the affected area. In as much as reductions of greenhouse gases are key to avoiding such a menace, comprehensive and systematic coastal management programs offer the best adaptation measures. This would include avoiding development in areas vulnerable to inundation, ensuring critical natural systems continue to function and protection of human lives, essential properties, and economic activities against the adverse impacts.
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