Thursday, December 03, 2009

COUNCILS FACE LEGAL DILEMMA OVER SEA LEVEL RISE

From: My Sunshine Coast

23 November 2009    COUNCILS FACE LEGAL DILEMMA OVER SEA LEVEL RISE
Australia’s coastal councils face the possibility of costly legal actions as a result of recent changes to projected sea level rise, according to the National Sea Change Taskforce.
The Taskforce, which represents non-metropolitan coastal councils in all states, is advising member councils they will need to take into account the revised sea level rise scenario of 1.1m, which was announced in a new government report on climate change released last week.
Alan Stokes, the executive director of the Taskforce, said the process of approving development applications in coastal areas at potential risk of inundation could be thrown into disarray by recent changes in projected sea level rise.
“Development applications that were approved a week ago based on a projected sea level rise of 0.8m in Victoria, or 0.9m in NSW could already be shown to be based on scientific projections that are now redundant, exposing the consent authority to potential legal liability,” he said.
“The nation’s coastal councils need a greater measure of legal protection in order to provide some certainty in deciding development applications in areas at risk of sea level rise.”
Mr Stokes said it was only last year that some states were basing planning decisions on a projected sea level rise of 0.3m or 0.38m. “The release of the Federal Government report Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coasts last Saturday has changed all that,” he said.
“No consent authority in the nation can now argue they were unaware of a potential sea level rise of 1.1m by the year 2100. That now appears to have become the default scenario, with some local variation, which planners around Australia will need to take into account when considering any coastal development application.”
“This is a national issue affecting all coastal councils which could have significant impacts on property owners seeking to proceed with developments in areas at perceived risk. It is an issue that urgently requires clarification, as recommended in the report of the coastal Inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change.”
A leading environmental lawyer supported the need for coastal councils to examine the nature and extent of potential climate change impacts very carefully when considering coastal development applications.
Andrew Beatty a partner specialising in environment law with the law firm Baker & McKenzie said there was no doubt that failure to consider climate change impacts when making coastal planning decisions leaves councils exposed to the risk of costly legal actions.
“These cases are complicated by the fact that climate change impacts on coastal land do not occur immediately or in predictable ways,” he said. “Each case will turn on its own facts.”

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Major study doubles sea level rise projections

From: The Times of India

TNN 2 December 2009, 03:42am IST

Days before the Copenhagen conference on climate change kicks off, a major study by a group of 100 international scientists has said that sea

levels are likely to rise by as much as 1.4 metres (more than 4 feet) by the end of this century. That's twice as much as previously predicted in IPCC's fourth assessment report of 2007.
The report released by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is the first comprehensive review of the impact of global warming on Antarctica. The IPCC's 2007 report had projected that sea-levels could rise by 18cm to 59cm by 2099. Subsequent studies of glacial melts in Greenland and Antarctica had raised fears that sea rise could be much higher than that.
``We can see the west Antarctic glaciers are shrinking at a rate fast enough to contribute to a sea level rise of 1.4 m by 2100, but it will be no more than that,'' SCAR executive director Colin Summerhayes told reporters at a media briefing in London.
If these projections come true, most areas in low-lying island nations like the Maldives would go under the sea. Based on earlier studies, the UN's environmental panel has already warned that sea levels would be high enough to make the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100. The new study also significantly enhances the threat to the Indian coast — and cities like Mumbai, Chennai and the low-lying Kolkata.
``Anybody who lives in coastal cities needs to be slightly worried by projections of 1 metre or more,'' Summerhayes said.
Since 1870, global sea level has risen by about 20cm at an average rate of 1.7 mm/year. But in recent decades, the rate has risen sharply to 2.5mm/year, according to the latest figures. The rise in sea level is mainly a result of thermal expansion of the ocean due to global warming as well as increased water inflows from melting glaciers and ice caps.
The reports says that central Antarctica, that has so far been protected from warming due to a hole in the ozone layer, will also see the full effects of greenhouse gas increases as the ozone hole heals.
The scientists found that there has been significant thinning of the west Antarctic ice sheet and 90% of glaciers across the Antarctic peninsula had retreated over recent decades. But the bulk of the Antarctic ice sheet has shown little change over recent decades.
However, the report says, historically, small-scale climate variability has caused rapid ice loss, shifts in ocean and atmospheric circulation in the continent. This shows Antarctica is highly sensitive to even minor climate changes. It says studies of sediments under recently lost ice shelves suggest ice shelf loss in some regions is unprecedented during this time scale.