$200billion damage to infrastructure

SYDNEY – Future sea level rises could put more than $A200billion ($F342b) of Australian infrastructure at risk, a report by the Climate Council has found.

The report, Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding, showed sea levels were likely to rise by between 40 centimetres and one metre over the next century.

The Climate Council succeeded the Australian Climate Commission, which was axed after the Federal Government took office last year.

The report’s lead author, Professor Will Steffen, warned national income would suffer huge losses if action was not taken to protect against rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

“You’re looking at anywhere from three tenths of a per cent of loss of GDP per year, all the way up to 9 per cent loss of GDP per year,” Prof Steffen said.

“That upper scenario is higher than the growth rate of GDP per year, so you’re looking basically at staggering economic costs if we don’t get this under control.”

The Victorian coast, the south-east corner of Queensland and Sydney would be the hardest hit by rising sea levels, the report found.

With more than 75 per cent of Australians living near the coast, Prof Steffen said large swathes of infrastructure were at risk.

“Much of our road, rail, port facilities, airports and so on are on the coast,” he said.

“If you look at a 1.1 metre sea level rise — which is the high-end scenario for 2100 but that’s what we’re tracking towards — you’re looking at more than $200b ($F342b) worth of infrastructure that’s at risk.”

Prof Steffen said so-called once-in-a-lifetime natural events could become regular occurrences.

“If you look at some of our most vulnerable areas, and the Sydney region is one of those, you would say toward the end of this century that a one-in-100-year flood is going to be happening every few days,” he said.

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