Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beachfront residents on own against sea rise

From: The Sydney Morning Herald


Elaine Pearce, a retiree and owner of beachfront units, is fighting to save her retirement dream from erosion caused by the sea. Photo: Shane Chalker

Marian Wilkinson, Environment Editor
June 13, 2009

OWNERS of beachfront homes will get little protection or compensation from the State Government if their properties are threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change or coastal erosion, under a plan in the course of being developed.

Anger is mounting among councils and coastal communities that the Government priority will be to protect public works and public safety, creating the prospect of lengthy legal battles between councils and beachfront residents.

The Minister for Climate Change, Carmel Tebbutt, has outlined her views in a letter to the Mayor of Taree, Paul Hogan, who is under pressure from residents of Old Bar beach, on the Mid-North Coast, where properties are already threatened by natural erosion.

Signalling the scale of future problems along the coastline from rising sea levels, Ms Tebbutt told Cr Hogan the Government would give priority to protecting public works and public safety, not private property.

"Given the expected magnitude of requests for funding, government financial assistance to councils is unlikely to extend to protecting or purchasing all properties at risk from coastal hazards and sea-level rise," Ms Tebbutt said.

A senior official in her department, Simon Smith, bluntly told a federal parliamentary committee recently: "I do not think that many people have realised how significant it is and how much valuable land and property is going to be affected."

He also said: "The state's view is that the risk to a property from sea-level rise lies with the property owner, public or private - or, whoever owns the land takes the risk. They gain the benefit of proximity to the ocean and they bear the risk of proximity to the ocean."

The NSW plan is being developed as scientists and councils warn that sea-level rise from climate change will greatly increase the number of beachfront homes at risk of inundation in coming decades, affecting some of the most expensive property in the country.

Geoff Withycombe, of the Sydney Coastal Councils Group, said: "Coastal property values at present do not reflect their potential risk." His organisation has has warned of a "black cloud of liability" hanging over councils.

Yesterday some of Australia's leading Antarctic climate scientists delivered a fresh warning to the Federal Government that "sea-level rise with associated effects, such as increased frequency of severe storm surges, will be one of the greatest impacts of a warming world on human societies".

The NSW Government released a draft policy statement on sea-level rise in February but councils and coastal property owners are only now realising its implications for beachfront properties.

The policy is based on scientific advice that sea levels are expected to rise up to 0.4 metres by 2050 and up to 0.9 metres by 2100.

Each centimetre of sea-level rise is expected to cause, on average, a metre of erosion along vulnerable coastlines. Sydney coastal councils were warned this week that the frequency of coastal flooding would increase by a factor of 300 if sea levels rose by half a metre.

The policy will not be released until September. But residents with properties already threatened by natural or man-made erosion are pressing councils to protect their homes now.

This week Byron Shire Council was in the Land and Environment Court attempting to prevent a beachfront resident erecting a rock wall to protect his home from erosion allegedly caused by early engineering works.

The Mayor, Jan Barham, fears residents at risk from sea-level rise caused by climate change will sue councils unless the Government changes its plan.

Coastal life's tide turmoil

Beachfront residents from Old Bar on the Mid-North Coast are likely to become an acid test of how local and state governments deal with rising sea levels.

Elaine Pearce's unit is under threat from natural coastal erosion, but by 2050 scientists are warning many more beachfront homes around the country could face similar risks as climate change speeds up sea-level rise, erosion and inundation.

Mrs Pearce wrote to the Greater Taree City Council last month when the beach lost another 2.5 metres of dunes in recent storms.

Since 2005 the nearby dunes have been eroding at a rate of 7.5 metres a year and residents want the council to put sand-bagged barriers in place.

But councils and residents are being warned the State Government's priority will be protecting public works and public safety, not homes.

"It's like Nero fiddling while Rome burns," Mrs Pearce said.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Research shows soil type plays larger role in wetland erosion than plants

Published on 11 June 2009, 08:09 Last Update: 3 week(s) ago by Insciences

COLLEGE STATION – New research could assist ecologists in managing erosion of coastal wetlands, but it bucks the theory that plants can directly mitigate soil loss during hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Dr. Rusty Feagin, a Texas AgriLife Research ecosystems management scientist, and a group of researchers discovered soil type plays a much larger role in preventing erosion along wetland edges rather than salt marsh plants.

“This study is part of a broader perspective in that the key is we can’t expect these plants to stop soil erosion during something like Hurricane Ike,” said Feagin, whose findings were published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“A lot of people are pushing this idea, but the research doesn’t show that," he said. "It shows (the plants) don’t even stop erosion on little waves, but we still need to keep these areas vegetated because wetlands, dunes and other coastal ecosystems build land, and those plants capture sediment in the long term.”


Click here for Caption and to download

Wetlands have great value to Texas, Feagin said, attracting tourists for hunting and fishing, kayaking and other recreational activities.

One possible solution to protecting them is to build permeable barriers, he said.

“What has been done in the past is to build a non-permeable bulkhead or geotube, essentially a large sand sock. Nearly half of Galveston Island is ringed with these things,” he said. “That has stopped the waves from eroding the wetlands, but the problem is that we have essentially sealed off the open water connections with the bay. You’ve walled it off, it becomes sediment starved, it begins to drop in relative elevation, and there begins to be long-term sea level rise problems.”

A solution is to build many small gaps in the barrier that allow water to flow into the marsh, creating a more natural flow of water, sand and other nutrients, he said.

Feagin and the group of researchers challenged “the paradigm that saltmarsh (salt marsh) plants prevent lateral wave-induced erosion” along wetland edges by binding soil with live roots.

Observations were made that erosion appeared to be “most prominent during the draw-down (backwash) of the wave cycle, rather than during the swash of an oncoming wave,” according to the report.

In its summary, the researchers recommend that “efforts toward salt marsh restoration, a multi-billion dollar endeavor, should place the highest priority on obtaining the correct soil rather than on planting vegetation in areas that are subject to high-wave energy."

However, in the report the researchers also suggest vegetation should be used to modify the soil so it may become more resistant to erosion over the long term.

The work can be found at

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259,

Dr. Rusty Feagin, 979-862-2612,

Source: Texas A&M Agriculture, Texas AgriLife

Monday, June 29, 2009

New report: Climate Change is detectable driver of migration


Author: Care International
Published on Jun 10, 2009 - 7:55:21 AM

BONN, June 10, 2009 - Unless aggressive measures are taken to halt global warming, the consequences for human migration and displacement could reach a scope and scale that vastly exceed anything that has occurred before. Climate change is already contributing to migration and displacement. All major estimates project that the trend will rise to tens of millions of migrants in coming years. Within the next few decades, the consequences of climate change for human security efforts could be devastating.
These are amongst the key findings of a new report entitled, "In Search of Shelter: Mapping the effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement". The report was authored by UN University's Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), CARE International and Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). It was released to the media today during the Bonn Climate Change Talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The exact number of people that will be on the move by mid-century is uncertain. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that there may be 200 million environmentally-induced migrants by 2050. "While human migration and displacement is usually the result of multiple factors, the influence of climate change in people's decision to give up their livelihoods and leave their homes is growing" says Dr. Charles Ehrhart, CARE International's Climate Change Coordinator and one of the report's authors.
Mexico and the Central American countries are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change - both in terms of less rainfall and more extreme weather, such as hurricanes and floods. Rainfall in some areas is expected to decline by as much as 50 per cent by 2080, rendering many local livelihoods unviable and dramatically raising the risk of chronic hunger.
"The potential impacts of future sea level rise are at least as startling. In Vietnam's densely populated Mekong River Delta, for example, a sea level rise of two meters would - assuming current populations densities - flood the homes of more than 14.2 million people and submerge half of the region's agricultural land," Ehrhart adds.
Most people will seek shelter in their own countries while others cross borders. Some displacement and migration may be prevented through the implementation of adaptation measures. However, poorer countries are underequipped to support widespread adaptation. As a result, societies affected by climate change may find themselves locked into a downward spiral of ecological degradation, towards the bottom of which social safety nets collapse while tensions and violence rise. In this all-too-plausible worst-case scenario, large populations would be forced to migrate as a matter of immediate survival. Gender roles, as well as cultural prescriptions and prohibitions, can make it impossible for women and female headed-households to migrate in response to environmental change - even if migration would be a case of survival.
"New thinking and practical approaches are needed to address the threats that climate-related migration poses to human security and wellbeing," says Dr. Koko Warner, Head of Section of the UN University's Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and lead author of the report.
People have always relied on long- and short-term migration as ways of dealing with climatic changes. The challenge is to better understand the dynamics of climate-related migration and displacement and incorporate human mobility into international and national plans for adapting to climate change.
The new report provides empirical evidence from a first-time, multi-continent survey, policy recommendations and an analysis of both the threats and potential solutions. Original maps show climate change impacts and population distribution patterns. "Migration needs to be recognised as not being negative per se, but a sometimes necessary response to the negative impacts of climate change. The policy decision we make today will determine whether migration can be a choice, a pro-active adaptation measure, or whether migration and displacement is the tragic proof of our collective failure to provide better alternatives," Warner concludes.
The report was written by the UN University's Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), CARE International, and Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). It was funded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Bank.
To download the report:

© Copyright

Surge in sea level causes Thatta’s flooding

From: The News Pakistan

Updated at: 1845 PST, Thursday, June 25, 2009 

THATTA: Rise in sea level caused flooding in the coastal areas of Thatta while intermittent rains continue in Badin.
The Met Office has indicated seawater flooding in the coastal areas of Sindh. This has sent a wave of panic among the residents of Thatta, Ketty Bunder, Jaati, Shah Buner, Kharochan, Hajamro besides villages located at the coastal belt of Sindh.
The surge in sea level led to its spilling into in the coastal areas including Siddique Ronjho, Tappan, Siddique Dabdo and other villages.
Sporadic rains continue in the coastal areas of Badin.
Fishermen have suspended their activities in Zero Point, Shekhani Gari and other areas along with the coastal line.