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The challenge

Globally, rising sea levels impact the population, infrastructure and environment

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

Global mean sea level has risen by around 25 cm since 1880 and half of this rise has occurred since 1970. Further, the rate of mean sea level rise is accelerating, globally.

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.

What impact will sea-level rise have in Australia?

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.

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 response

Planning for the impact of sea-level rise

CSIRO 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.

A beach is eroded in the foreground with apartment building in the background

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