A picture of a road running along a coast.

Planning for sea level rise

Coastal communities need to consider how best to plan for sea level rise.

  • 9 August 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

Around the world, rising sea levels, as a result of human induced climate change, are already having an impact.

Government, industry and the community need to work together to consider how best to plan for rising sea levels that will affect coastal communities, industries and ecosystems.

CSIRO’s research aims to support coastal communities and industries to develop strategies for reducing the risk to population, infrastructure and the environment.

Defining the problem

In Australia the consequences of sea level rise will include increased flooding of low-lying coastal, including tidal, areas and are likely to result in coastal erosion, loss of beaches, and higher storm surges that will affect coastal communities, infrastructure, industries and the environment.

At the same time, the coastline is becoming more developed with people and industries increasingly concentrated along the coastline – around 85 per cent of the population live within 50 km of the coast. 

Coastal ecosystems that are likely to be affected by sea level rise include beaches, coral reefs and other tidal systems such as estuaries, and wetlands.

The coastline is becoming more developed with people and industries increasingly concentrated along the coastline.

A significant proportion of Australia's infrastructure – such as transportation and communication networks – is located around coastal population centres.

Coastal inundation and more frequent storms are likely to impact on the built environment through damage to structures, or disruption of the services they provide.

Similarly coastal industries need to prepare for change as their location or access or use of coastal resources is likely to be impacted. Different industries – from large corporate manufacturers that rely on port facilities to small individual ventures such as tourist operators are likely to have different challenges and capacities to adapt to coastal change.

Our approach

The Climate Adaptation Flagship is helping to plan for the impacts of sea level rise through research focused on:

  • modelling projections of sea level rise
  • estimating the costs and benefits of adaptation options
  • understanding the impacts on coastal ecosystems.

Read more about predicting sea level rise, or planning to reduce the impacts of coastal inundation, a survey of opinions on purchasing coastal property.

Read more about the Climate Adaptation Flagship.