Preparing our coasts

Tools to support adaptation

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Society will need to adapt to a certain level of climate change and rises in sea levels. Even if global mitigation efforts are successful, the science shows some climate change impacts are now unavoidable.

Sea levels will continue to rise for several centuries even after the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is stabilised. This is due to: the time lag between the transferral of heat from the atmosphere to the oceans, the time required for icesheets to melt, and the momentum in the climate system.

Many of the impacts of climate change can be managed if we start to plan now. The Australian Government has developed a series of maps to help communicate the risks of sea level rise from climate change.

Belongil Beach, NSW. Photo Credit: Peter Olsen

Australian, state and territory, and local governments are making significant investments in data, modelling and in developing the capability needed to help understand the potential impacts and how we might adapt to the changing climate.

State governments have also started to review and change policy and planning approaches to account for rising sea levels and other climate change impacts. For example most states have adopted sea level rise policies, which are identified in the Table below. The sea level rise policies have generally been based on the IPCC 2007 Fourth Assessment Report and informed by other regional characteristics.

Many local governments have also begun the process of communicating and engaging their communities in developing adaptation strategies.

The Australian Government recognises there are issues in how we prepare our coastal areas that would best be addressed through a coordinated approach across all jurisdictions. It has committed to working with the states, territories and, through the Australian Local Government Association, with local governments to develop a national coastal adaptation approach.

State sea level rise benchmarks

 2050 (on 1990 levels)2100 (on 1990 levels)Reference
QLD0.3m(draft)0.8m(draft)Draft State Coastal Management Plan (2009)
NSW0.4*0.9*NSW Sea Level Rise Policy Statement (2009), and the NSW Coastal Planning Guideline: Adapting to SLR (2010)
VIC-0.8Victorian Coastal Strategy (2008)
TASNilNilState Coast Policy 1996 (review in progress - draft State Coastal Policy released 2008)
SA0.3m1m Coast Protection Board Policy Document (2002)
WA-0.9m (by 2110)State Coastal Planning Policy 2003 and sea level rise position statement (draft)
NTNilNilNT Climate Change Policy 2009

*CSIRO has modelled sea level rise variation around Australia, and sea levels along the NSW coastline are projected to experience a regional rise of approximately 10cm, in addition to the global sea level rise projections.

Read more about mapping sea level rise

Find out more about preparing our coasts

If you have questions about coastal climate change please contact the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency: enquiries@climatechange.gov.au

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