Climate change brings significant risks to the coastal zone. The Climate change risks to Australia's coasts report found that, by the turn of the century, a significant number of residential buildings may be at risk of inundation and damage from a sea level rise of 1.1 metres (high end scenario for 2100).
In June 2011 a supplement to Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coasts was released. The Climate change risks to coastal buildings and infrastructure report identifies the exposure of coastal infrastructure to inundation and erosion from a sea level rise of 1.1 metres. The report provides data on the exposure of:
- commercial buildings such as retail precincts
- light industrial buildings such as warehouses and manufacturing
- transport systems such as road, rail and tramways.
Risks to coastal communities
The National Coastal Risk Assessment found that by the turn of the century a significant number of residential buildings may be at risk of inundation and damage from a sea level rise of 1.1 metres. The national assessment identified between 157,000 and 247,600 residential buildings potentially at risk of inundation from a 1.1 metre sea level rise (for Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales this includes a 1-in-100 year storm tide), with a replacement value of up to $63 billion.
Erosion due to higher sea levels is also a key risk for coastal areas. Nationally, nearly 39,000 residential buildings within 110 metres of coastlines are susceptible to erosion, of which nearly 40 per cent are located in Queensland.
There are a significant number of vulnerable communities in the coastal zone, including Indigenous communities. The remoteness, and in many cases low elevation, of several island communities will also place them at risk.
The risks from sea level rise may also apply to communities some distance from the sea. For example, flooding may impact on buildings along estuaries, rivers, lakes or lagoons.
Many facilities supporting the delivery of community services are within 200 metres of the coastline. They include:
- 258 police, fire and ambulance stations
- five power stations/sub stations
- 75 hospitals and health services
- 41 landfill sites, three water treatment plants
- 11 emergency services facilities.
The delivery of essential services such as electricity generation and wastewater management will increasingly be impacted by inundation, erosion, the effects of sea water intrusion into coastal freshwater systems and drainage systems, and increased corrosion.
Coastal industries, particularly the tourism industry, will also face increasing challenges due to climate change and will need to plan to manage projected risk.
Estimated number of existing residential buildings at risk of inundation from a sea-level rise of 1.1 metres (including 1-in-100 storm tide for NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, and high-tide event for other states and the Northern Territory)