Geography Compass

Implications for a future with higher sea levels

800px-Happisburgh_coastal_erosionBy Clare Boston

A recent government report in Australia has advised that urgent action is required to respond to changes in the country’s coastline, where about 80% of the population live, due to global sea level rise.  Anne Barrowclough writes in The Times that action has already been taken in Byron Bay, New South Wales.  Here homeowners are fighting against council plans to prevent them from building defences to protect their land and the policy to demolish properties if they become under the immediate threat of coastal erosion.

The issue of future sea level rise, anticipated to be up to 60 cm during this century by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is being felt world-wide, particularly as population growth in coastal areas is continuing to rise rapidly.  In Geography Compass Wang et al. consider the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data for monitoring coastal floodplains.  They advocate the use of these satellite images for identifying vulnerable coastal areas, which may be under pressure from population growth, changes in land use and land cover and sea level rise.

Whilst remote sensing techniques such as this can provide valuable information for coastal management schemes and government policy on changing coastlines, as in the UK and Australia, other countries are asking for more drastic action.  In the Maldives, a recent government meeting was held underwater in order to highlight the loss of the islands if sea levels continue to rise and to call for global cuts in carbon emissions in light of the Copenhagen Summit on climate change in December.

Read the article on Australia’s changing coastline in The Times Online

Read Wang et al. 2009. Applications and Analyses of Satellite-borne L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar Data in Coastal Environments. Geography Compass.

Read about the Maldives Government’s underwater meeting on the BBC website


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