Editorial: Sea level rise a disaster many decades in the making


Editorial: Sea level rise a disaster many decades in the making

Staff Writers
The Advertiser
January 13, 2013 10:00PM

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AN Cartoon 14.1

Source: adelaidenow

THE plight of the River Murray has shown how environmental disaster can be allowed to sneak up on us despite ample warning, and opportunity for those charged with planning the future, to take preventative action.

A prolonged drought threatened to be the straw that broke the river system’s back, but the cause of the potential disaster was 100 years of over-extraction of water for human use.

Fortunately for the river system and all those who rely on it, at a minute to midnight governments were able to settle their differences and put politics aside to find a solution.

Unlike many natural disasters, the speed of the onset of which will always be problematic, the decline of the Murray, like sea level rise caused by climate change, is a disaster many decades in the making.

It is comforting then to know that early in the process the Department of Environment and Natural Resources hasn’t hidden behind the fact that the danger from sea level rise is long-term.

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Planners have identified which of the State’s lowest lying communities are most at risk. They have also warned that the first thing which needs to change is granting approval for new structures on land which will one day be under water.

Such things will one day seem obvious with the benefit of hindsight but they are certain to be controversial as land owners and other who enjoy a carefree coastal lifestyle look forward to more of the same for decades to come.

Shack communities have nothing to fear in the short term. Scientists argue that the onset of sea level rise will provide authorities with ample time to cope.

There are early signs of the looming problem however. Many people would not know that parts of Port Adelaide currently have to be sand bagged during king tides to prevent sea-level inundation. Or that in the worst predicted scenario up to 43,000 structures are under threat statewide.

The Environment Department has pointed out that there are few options to cope with future inundation. Beachfront protection works are extremely expensive and would have to be extended over large areas. One option which is fair for everyone is that those who are denied development rights on their property because of the future threat be allowed a equivalent opportunity further along the coast. Strategic retreat of homes may also be required and in the worst-case scenario entire shack communities may need to be relocated.

Such early prevention measures do not mean there is any need to panic, they simply highlight the inevitability of long-term changes in sea level. The changes being forecast will take place over the next 100 years.


ANYONE who makes the effort to undertake further education deserves credit for trying to improve their employment prospects.

Moves by the State Government to offer hundreds of free Certificate I and II courses, and subsidise higher-order qualifications, have made this easier for many with poor literacy and numeracy skills.

But it is incumbent on the government to ensure people are choosing to train in fields which present job opportunities post-graduation.

Analysis has shown too many students are choosing qualifications they might enjoy – like floristry, furniture making or fitness – but which estimates show will equip them for occupations where there are few or no job openings.

The government is consulting with industry to better align study choices with skills shortages so no more funding or effort is wasted.

Figures out today show enrolments in TAFE SA courses have more than doubled since last year.

Let’s hope those students are guided to study in fields where there are jobs waiting when they graduate.

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