Environment News Service (ENS)

Australia First to Model Continental Shoreline Climate Impacts


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

CANBERRA, Australia, August 23, 2007 (ENS) - The Australian government is undertaking to model the impacts of climate change on the whole coastline of the island continent. The project will help show the effects of storm surges, floods and tsunamis on Australia's coastal infrastructure, communities and ecosystems.

Announcing the project today, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull said this is the first time a whole continent anywhere in the world will be able to model the impacts of climate change on its coasts.

'This will help Australia's coastal regions plan their strategy to combat the effects of climate change,' Turnbull said. 'Eighty-five percent of Australians live on the coast and we all need to better understand how climate change will affect these regions so we can plan accordingly.'

Australian average temperatures have risen by 0.7 ºC (1.26 ºF) over the last century, and the warming trend appears to have emerged from the background of natural climate variability in the second half of the 20th century, the Environment Department said in a 2003 report.

Annual average temperatures in Australia are projected to increase by 0.4 to 2.0 °C by 2030, and 1.0 to 6.0 °C by 2070, relative to 1990, the government report projects.

About 80 percent of Australia's population lives within 50 km (30 miles) of the coast. Marked trends to greater population and investment in exposed coastal regions are increasing vulnerability to tropical cyclones and storm surges, said the Environment Department's report.

Climate warming is expected to result in reduced runoff, higher riverine, estuarine and coastal aquifer salinity, and increased algal blooms which would exacerbate water supply and water quality problems in some urban areas - notably Perth and Adelaide - according to the report.

The apartments and houses in which Australians live will be at risk as climate change intensifies, according to the Climate Action Network Australia, CANA, a consortium of environmental, conservation and other citizens groups.

'A combination of more intense storms, more frequent bushfires and higher sea levels will not only threaten housing directly, it will also make homes more expensive to insure, to maintain, and to keep cool,' CANA warns.

'And as Australians settle in increasing numbers near the coast and in the hotter outer suburbs of our major cities, their vulnerability will increase.'

The government will invest A$1.7 million in technology to develop a digital model - a three-dimensional, graphical depiction of the Earth's surface - for Australia's entire coastline.

The need for a digital elevation model was identified by Council of Australian Governments in its National Climate Change Adaptation Framework.

The data purchase will be funded from the Australian government's $14.2 million Climate Change Adaptation Programme.

'For the first time, this data will give us a nationally consistent and detailed picture of our coastal regions,' Turnbull said. 'It will also be used to develop models that test how tsunamis or storm surges of varying severity would affect a specific region.'

The University of Tasmania and Geoscience Australia, under the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, will also contribute to the coastal vulnerability assessment by providing a map of coastal geomorphology, which will help determine the stability and vulnerability coastal land to erosion.

The assessment of Australia's coastal vulnerability to climate change will be part of the work to be undertaken through the new $126 million Centre for Climate Change Adaptation being established.

With funding for the five years to 2012, the Centre will provide decision-makers with the information and tools they need to understand and assess the risks of climate change impacts.

The Centre will work with partners to demonstrate adaptation approaches that deliver multiple benefits, the government said. To support this change in thinking, the Centre will facilitate and support businesses, communities and governments to develop and implement strategies to manage their risks from the impacts of climate change.

The research functions of the Centre will be coordinated through a new Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

The Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility will be hosted by a scientific institution and will lead the research community in a national interdisciplinary effort to help government, industry and community decision makers manage the risks from the potential impacts of climate change.

The deadline for submitting proposals to host this facility is September 1, 2007.

To read the report, 'Climate Change - An Australian Guide to the Science and Potential Impacts,' click here

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