10 December 2014
Sea levels are expected to rise by around one metre by the year 2100 leading to inundation of many coastal communities. Photo by Javier Leon Patino.
Sea levels are expected to rise by around one metre by the year 2100 leading to inundation of many coastal communities. Photo by Javier Leon Patino.

Coastal communities could be significantly damaged if authorities don’t plan ahead for sea-level rise, according to University of Queensland experts studying coastal inundation.

UQ’s Dr Megan Saunders is a post-doctoral researcher at the Global Change Institute, investigating the impacts of sea level rise on the Great Barrier Reef and South East Queensland as part of the Australian Sea Level Rise Partnership.

The Moreton Bay area is one of the key focal areas of the four-year research program.

“Sea level rise is happening already,” Dr Saunders said. “The scientific consensus is that seas could rise by as much as one metre by 2100.

“Four out of five Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coastline. To ignore the vulnerability of coastal communities to inundation would be to expose them to unnecessary levels of risk.

The Climate Council recently released a report indicating that $200 billion of Australian infrastructure is already at risk from sea level rise as a result of climate change.”

“Sea level rise threatens marine ecosystems, it threatens coastal communities and it also threatens local economies. The cost of ignoring the science is far greater than the cost of incorporating scientific evidence into coastal planning.”

Dr Saunders said the study was the most up to date and detailed body of scientific evidence about the impacts of sea level rise.

“This work has been done to ensure councils are reliably informed in their decision-making processes,” she said.

“It would set a dangerous precedent to ignore this work.”

Dr Saunders is available for live and pre-recorded radio and telephone interviews. She is at the Global Change Institute, Building 20, Top of Staff House Road, The University of Queensland, St Lucia.

Media Contact

Global Change Institute Communications and Engagement Manager Adam Harper, a.harper@uq.edu.au, +61 (0)418 201 205 or +61 7 3443 3146.

The Australian Sea Level Rise Partnership is a four year research think-tank drawing on scientific expertise from UQ, James Cook University, University of Wollongong and CSIRO. The partnership includes chief investigators of international repute along with five post-doctoral research fellows. The partnership has produced 20 peer reviewed publications and journals.

The Global Change Institute at UQ, Australia, was established in 2010 as an independent source of game-changing research, ideas and advice for addressing the challenges of global change. GCI advances discovery, develops solutions and advocates responses that meet the challenges presented by climate change, technological innovation and population change.

The University of Queensland, Australia, is one of the world’s premier teaching and research institutions. It is consistently ranked in the top 100 in four independent global rankings. With more than 48,000 students and 6500 staff, UQ’s teaching is informed by research, and spans six faculties and eight research institutes.

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