Governments should measure risk of sea-level rise

By Staff Writer

Uncertainty over sea-level rise has lead to both inaction and over-cautious responses from government, according to climate change researchers.

The Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) said projections of future sea-level rise were subject to great uncertainty.

In 2100, the rise in sea-levels could range anywhere between 0.2 metres to more than 1 metre.

ACE CRC oceanographer, Dr John Hunter, said ambiguity over sea level rise has lead to two common responses by policy makers: doing nothing or being over cautious.

“One is to say that it is ‘too hard’ and do nothing, and the other is to opt for over-cautious and possibly costly responses,” Dr Hunter said.

“While it is easy for governments to take an over-cautious approach, which could involve building infrastructure at a height above even the most extreme projection of sea-level rise, this has the potential to be unnecessarily costly.

“This money could be used by society to assist in climate change mitigation and other more effective adaptation responses.”

Dr Hunter said uncertainty was no excuse for delay, inaction or over-response.

“Society, business and government deal with uncertainty all the time,” he said.

“Making decisions using risk assessment techniques is now common practice and can similarly be applied to climate change and sea-level rise.”

ACE CRC has developed a new tool to assist government, developers and planners to assess the likelihood of flooding caused by sea-level rise. The new web-based planning tool will be profiled at a seminar in Darwin on October 7.

The workshop is part of a series of free training seminars hosted by ACE CRC with funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Climate Change.

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