ABC News Online, 14 November 2009
A new report has warned that up to 250,000 homes around Australia will be inundated due to climate change by the turn of the century.
The Federal Government report titled Climate Risks to Australia is the most comprehensive assessment to date, taking into account a projected 1.1-metre rise in sea level and an increasing risk of extreme weather events like tidal and storm surges.
Up to $63 billion worth of residential property faces inundation, as well as 120 ports, some airports - including Brisbane and Sydney - and 1,800 bridges.
Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says a national plan needs to be put in place.
"This is a very important step in providing the information Australia needs," she said.
Scientist Tim Flannery has been appointed to chair the next phase of this report and he says the graphic assessment needs to be treated seriously.
"If you get a six-metre sea level surge with a cyclone on a place like the Gold Coast you have got very serious trouble," he said.
"The thing about sea level rise is that its inexorable, it strikes at all coasts at the same time.
"Anyone who thinks we we may be able to adapt to this, I beg you to think again, because the scale at which you would have to build sea walls or coastal defence barriers is so massive."
The report warns that New South Wales will have the "greatest exposure" to sea level rises, with up to 60,000 homes at risk.
The State Water Minister, Phil Costa, says his Government is committed to a national response to the threat.
"It's catastrophic. We've already begun the process of ensuring that the planning regime is working towards the potential of sea level rise, so we have time, we can do it and we can only do it as a nation," he said.
"We can't have just one state dealing with this particularly difficult time that's ahead of us - we all have to work together."
In Victoria, up to 45,000 residential buildings are at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels, with 70 per cent of those located in the Kingston, Hobsons Bay, Greater Geelong, Wellington and Port Phillip local government areas.
It puts the current value of those buildings at around $10.3 billion, with nearly 5,000 structures located within 110 metres of soft, erodible shorelines.
The report also says up to 57,000 residential buildings in Queensland could be at risk because of the sea level rise.
It found the areas most at risk of inundation were Moreton Bay, Mackay, the Fraser Coast, Bundaberg and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
Senator Wong will release the full report in Sydney today.