About 80% of Australians live in coastal areas
Australians may have to leave coastal areas as rising sea levels threaten homes, according to a new report.
The parliamentary committee report says urgent action is needed, as seas are expected to rise by 80cm (31 inches).
About 80% of Australians live in coastal areas, and the report recommends new laws banning further development in coastal regions.
Correspondents say the authorities are divided over whether to retreat from rising seas or defend the coastline.
The report, entitled Managing Our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate, urges the authorities to consider “the possibility of a government instrument that prohibits continued occupation of the land or future building development on the property due to sea hazard”.
It estimates that Aus$150bn ($137bn) worth of property is at risk from rising sea levels and more frequent storms in future years.
RISK TO AUSTRALIA’S COASTAL POPULATIONS
Queensland: 250,000 buildings at risk
New South Wales: 200,000 buildings at risk
Western Australia: 94,000 buildings at risk
Victoria: 80,000 buildings at risk
South Australia: 60,000 buildings at risk
Northern Territory: 900 buildings at risk
Tasmania: 20% of coastline at risk
There are almost 50 recommendations in the report, ranging from a national coastline plan and greater co-operation between different authorities to a revised building code to cope with storm surges and soil erosion.
It does not say the government should force people to move inland but proposes that an independent group look into whether the government could – and should – do just that.
Australia’s major cities are all in coastal areas, as well as the homes of some six million people outside the main population centres, according to the report, which was issued late on Monday after 18 months of study.
Alan Stokes, the task force’s executive director, said banning development in certain areas was necessary if the government wanted to prevent a major loss of life in the event of natural disasters such as tsunamis.
“There’s no doubt Australia will remain and continue to be a coastal community,” he said.
“But we may have to be a bit more considerate about which parts of the coast we develop further and which ones we don’t,” he added.
Last week the government reintroduced carbon trading legislation which was rejected in August and is among a package of bills aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25% by 2020.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded by the UN, estimates that a global rise in sea level of some 80cm is possible by 2100.