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dec09 1b

Climate Change Threat

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A new report by the Australian Parliament’s Climate Change Committee highlighted the impact of climate change on coastal areas. The findings and recommendations of the report hold valuable lessons for South Africa.

Entitled “Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate: the time to act is now”, the report calls for new governance arrangements for Australia’s coastal zone and makes recommendations to improve management of climate change and environmental impacts on the coast (the report can be accessed at http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/ccwea/coastalzone/report.htm#chapters ).

 

Much like South Africa, Australia has a highly developed coastal zone. Rising sea levels resulting from climate change poses a significant risk to coastal infrastructure and communities. The report argues that AUS$150bn (£84bn) worth of property on the Australian coastline is at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent storms.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the report was a reminder that "The real cost for Australia of continued inaction on climate change is deep and enduring and damaging to our economy and damaging to the nation's environment".

The findings and recommendations of the report also hold valuable lessons for South Africa. More than 30% of South Africa’s population and about 60% of Mozambique’s population currently live near the coast. Furthermore, in excess of 80% of the southern African coastline is comprised of sandy shores susceptible to large sea level variability and erosion.

The potential impact of rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events was highlighted in March 2007 when a coastal storm hit the coast around Durban. The cost of repairs following the storm was estimated at R400 million, although this figure does not include foregone tourism revenue.

 

A study that assessed the risk of increasing sea levels and extreme weather events in the Cape Town metropole has concluded that in the next 25 years there is an 85% probability of 60.9km2 (2% of the metro area) being covered by sea for a short period. The estimated real estate loss is set at R20 billion.

A recent study concluded, “South Africa’s coast has long been vulnerable to storm surges but climate change has the potential to increase the intensity and frequency of these events and expose the imprudence and expedience of much of the country’s coastal development” (Cartwright, 2008).

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