Government Puts Potential Catastrophic Change On The Backburner

When the Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to endorse a proposal for “urgent action on climate change” at the recent Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu last month, he reaffirmed the Australian Government’s broad commitment to little action on climate change.

Part of that commitment to inaction stems from the fact most Australians can’t really see the effects of climate change just yet - apart from the occasional report about hottest year on record and extreme bushfire risk.  Yet if we don’t start taking it more seriously, the potential effects are catastrophic with rising sea levels just one of many hazards to overcome.

What propels our Pacific neighbours into action is they live with the existential crisis climate change represents every day. This might be about to change.

A recent research project led by a team of researchers led by Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment found a business-as-usual approach to climate change would affect 50 per cent of the world’s coastlines.

The good news is only around five per cent part of the world’s coastlines would probably suffer an adverse effect but those coasts included southern Australia. The upshot is large sections of the nation’s most populous states would experience extensive damage.

Involving 10 international groups, the Coordinated Ocean Wave Climate Project, examined how changing wave patterns will alter the world’s coastlines.

Griffith’s lead author, Environmental Engineer Joao Morim said the researchers used a range of different statistical and dynamical wave models, used outputs from several climate models, under different future climate scenarios, to determine how waves may change in the future.

'While we identified some differences between different studies, we found that if the two degrees Celsius Paris Agreement target is kept, signals of wave climate change are unlikely to exceed the magnitude of natural climate variability,” Mr Morim said.

“However, under a business-as-usual future climate scenario, we found agreement in the projected future changes in wave heights, lengths and/or directions along 50 per cent of the world’s coasts.

“These changes varied by region, with regional differences in increase/decrease in wave height and length of up to 10 and 5 per cent respectively, and rotation of wave direction of up to 17 degrees.”

The report marks the first time there has been a compilation and reanalysis of the existing wave climate projections to identify two components: the agreement among the different projections, and where there is agreement, what changes should we expect to see.

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