30cm sea level rise 'inevitable', Commissioner warns

  • Breaking
  • 27/11/2014

By 3 News online staff

A sea level rise of 30cm by 2050 in New Zealand is "inevitable" and the country needs to prepare for it, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says.

In the first of two reports on the impact of climate change, Dr Jan Wright issues a grim warning about the rising sea levels.

While 30cm may not sound much, Dr Wright says it will be "very costly" for landowners.

"Damaging coastal floods will become increasingly frequent. The insurance industry is becoming aware of, and responding to, the increased flooding risk. Some councils and communities have already started to face hard questions," she says.

The report says sea level rise is a "certain effect" of climate change, saying flooding will occur more frequently in some low-lying coastal areas and coastal erosion will also be an increasing problem.

"Storms occurring on top of a higher sea level will affect public infrastructure such as roads, railways and stormwater systems, as well as private homes and other buildings."

The Commissioner's report does not set out specific recommendations or economic analysis of at-risk infrastructure, instead aiming to ensure policy makers and the public have an understanding of the science and research behind sea level rise.

Dr Wright warns the only way to avoid larger rises beyond 2050 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Scientists have been studying this for over 100 years, and the body of evidence is now irrefutable," she says.

She cautions the inevitability of the rise means the only option will be to adapt to the change, however how high and how fast it happens will be up to how quickly the world reduces its emissions.

Sea levels have risen by 20cm over the past century, with three main processes causing it.

The first is water in the sea expanding as it gets warmer, glaciers melting and ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica.

The Green Party says the report reinforces the need for the Government to take climate change seriously.

"We need to do our fair share to reduce emissions, and we need to start before we lock in further sea level rises," co-leader Russel Norman says.

In the face of China the US signalling their intention to reduce their emissions, Dr Norman says New Zealand is looking isolated with plans to increase emissions.

The second report, due next year, will show which towns and cities are most vulnerable and assess the risk to infrastructure in those areas.

3 News

source: newshub archive