A report released today by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, identifies more than $226 billion of assets in coastal areas nationally that are potentially at risk from climate change. The report, Climate Change Risks to Coastal Settlements and Industry, identifies significant risks to commercial and light industrial infrastructure, and road and rail systems in Australia’s coastal areas based on a sea level rise of 1.1 metres representing a high-end scenario for 2100.

Coastal assets at risk from the combined impact of inundation and erosion include between 5,800 and 8,600 commercial buildings, between 3,700 and 6,200 light industrial buildings and between 27,000 and 35,000 kilometres of roads and rail.  The report shows exposure of coastal assets to sea level rise is widespread and will likely increase into the future. The new report adds to the Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coasts report, released in 2009, which identified risks to residential properties and natural ecosystems, beaches and landscapes. The new analysis supplements that work by assessing the vulnerability of commercial property, such as shopping centres and office buildings, light industrial property and road and rail infrastructure and by updating the earlier assessment of residential properties.

We can reduce our vulnerability to impacts we can’t avoid by using the best available science to plan timely and cost-effective adaptation measures.  Adaptation measures will vary depending on location and circumstance, but could include changes to planning regimes and buildings codes in urban environments.

The Government suggests the introduction of a Carbon Tax (to reduce carbon pollution) will avert the Climate Change Risk.  Surely that is too little too late, but its another argument to justify introducing a carbon tax that could generate $226 billion for the government, none of which is likely to be spent on protecting Australia’s coastal assets.

The report is available on www.climatechange.gov.au