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Climate change: Model predicts Australia to lose iconic sites in new sea-level rise

May 23, 2017 11:33:45

Sydney’s iconic Circular Quay and Botanic Gardens, Brisbane Airport, Melbourne’s Docklands and Perth’s Elizabeth Quay will all be underwater in dramatic new climate modelling.

Major sites at risk

  • NSW: Sydney International Airport, Circular Quay, Botanic Gardens
  • QLD: Brisbane Airport, Stradbroke Island, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast
  • VIC: Docklands, Bells Beach, Greater Geelong
  • WA: North Fremantle, Cottesloe and Coogee Beaches, Elizabeth Quay, WACA Ground
  • SA: Glenelg, Hindmarsh Island
  • TAS: Lauderdale

The projection used data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States which revealed global sea levels could rise by 2 metres by 2100 if emissions remain at their current levels.

It is substantially higher than the 74-centimetre increase proposed in a 2013 Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Professor John Church from the Climate Change Research at the University of New South Wales said while rising sea levels cannot be stopped, they could be slowed.

“We cannot prevent all sea-level rise, but we can certainly reign in the worst case scenarios,” Professor Church said.

“With business as usual emissions, the questions are when, rather than if, we will cross a 2-metre sea-level rise.”

Professor Church said the Australian Government needed to prepare for inevitable rises.

“We need to do two things. One is we need to urgently mitigate our emissions,” he said.

“But because we can’t stop all sea-level rise we will have to adapt, so we will need to think about appropriate planning measures for Australia, for our coastline.”

Professor Church said the Government also needed to consider the impact rising sea levels will have on Pacific neighbours, which did not have the same resources as Australia.

Faster melting of the Antarctic ice sheet is the major contributor to the revised increase in sea levels, but Professor Church said it could be mitigated.

“With the strongest emissions reductions, the Antarctic contribution is very much in line with what the last IPCC report said, whereas if we have unmitigated omissions, then the Antarctic contribution starts to become the dominant contribution fairly quickly,” he said.

According to the Coastal Risk Australia website, which maps predicted sea-level change, major infrastructure could be lost by the end of the century.

Website creator Nathan Eaton said 80 per cent of Australians lived in coastal areas, and it was critical people appreciated the impact rising levels would have.