Rising sea levels threaten Sydney and Melbourne, say scientists

A team of Australia’s top scientists warned yesterday that coastal regions near the country’s largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne are highly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by global warming. The government-appointed Climate Commission said sea levels may rise 0.5m to 1m by 2100, threatening areas covering much of Australia’s population and infrastructure.

Sydney may even see “extreme events” once a month by 2100, with the increasing likelihood of damaging floods, storm surges and king tides around the coast, reported The Sydney Morning Herald. “While a sea-level rise of 0.5 metre … may not seem like a matter for much concern, such modest levels of sea-level rise can lead to unexpectedly large increases in the frequency of extreme high sea-level events,” the commission said in a report titled The Critical Decade. The report aims to shift Australia’s current political debate over the government’s climate policy, which has polarised voters and been used by opposition parties to attack its parliamentary rivals. “This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change,” said the scientists, whose report was handed to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. “To minimise this risk, we must decarbonise our economy and move to clean energy sources by 2050. Carbon emissions must peak within the next few years and then strongly decline,” they said. Australia’s 22 million people are responsible for about 1.5 per cent of mankind’s greenhouse gas pollution, making it the developed world’s top per-capita carbon polluter.

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