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Scrapping sea level protection puts Australian homes at risk

As the science on the coastal impacts of climate change gets stronger, the protections for Australia’s coastal communities are getting weaker. If that continues, everyone will pay. Along the eastern seaboard…

Eroded beaches in Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast, May 2013. John Reid, Environment Studio, ANU School of Art

As the science on the coastal impacts of climate change gets stronger, the protections for Australia’s coastal communities are getting weaker. If that continues, everyone will pay.

Along the eastern seaboard of Australia, where most of us live, state governments are relaxing their policies and largely leaving it to local councils to decide if homes can be built in low-lying areas.

The Queensland government confirmed this week that sea level rise will be removed from its State Planning Policy, just as it was in New South Wales a year ago, while Victoria has also relaxed its sea level rules.

Yet nearly 39,000 homes are already located within 110 metres of soft, erodible shorelines, according to the Australian Department of Environment, which states exposure to the effects of sea level rise “will increase as Australia’s population grows”.

With 85% of Australians living in coastal areas, and billions of dollars of buildings and roads at stake, if we don’t get coastal planning right we risk facing huge human and economic costs.

The Local Government Association of Queensland has warned that councils could be sent broke by the state policy change, particularly because of the legal liability they could face if they approve coastal developments that are subsequently hit by future storm damage or flooding.

And as we saw with the devastating Queensland floods of 2011 and other major disasters, when individual homeowners were not insured and needed help, or when individual councils can’t afford to fix damaged roads and infrastructure, who ends up footing much of the repair bill? All Australian taxpayers.

So this is not just a problem for the lucky few with homes by the beach: we all have something at stake in getting coastal protections right.

Sea level rise science

As the Department of Environment explains, the risks from rising sea levels are serious, and not limited just to the coast:

Where Australians live, June 2012: coastal areas, especially along the eastern seaboard, are the most densely populated. Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rising sea levels will increase the frequency or likelihood of extreme sea level events and resultant flooding. The risks from sea level rise are not confined to the coast itself. In many cases flooding may impact areas some distance from the sea for example along estuaries, rivers, lakes and lagoons.

A study of 29 locations in Australia found that for a mid-range sea level rise of 50cm, extreme sea level events that happened every few years now are likely to occur every few days in 2100.

On average, Australia will experience a roughly 300-fold increase in flooding events, meaning that infrastructure that is presently flooded once in 100 years will be flooded several times per year with a sea level rise of 50cm.

But when you consider that many homes and suburbs that we build in Australia today will still be standing for decades to come, and that we don’t want to see those home owners left out of pocket or suing their council for letting them build in low-lying areas - just how much sea level rise should we be planning for?

I asked Dr John Church, a CSIRO Fellow and a coordinating lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chapter on sea level, what the latest science indicated. He replied:

The science is clear. Historical sea level information around the world and in Australia tells us that in times of a warmer climate, sea level has been metres higher than at present and that the rate of sea level rise has increased since pre-industrial time.

The emission of greenhouse gases has been a significant contribution to the 20th century rise and will very likely result in a faster rate of rise during the 21st century than over the last 40 years, or the 20th century as a whole.

Projections for sea level rise around Australia are similar to the global average. If there was very significant mitigation of greenhouses gas emissions, the global average rise is projected to be 28cm to 61cm by 2100, but, if emissions continue to grow in a business as usual fashion as is happening at present, the rise is projected to be 52cm to 98cm, and possibly up to several tens of centimetres above these values if marine-based sectors of the Antarctic ice sheet collapse. Sea level will continue to rise well after 2100. - John Church, correspondence with the author, 9 December 2013.

Queensland’s old planning rules had factored in a sea level rise of 30 centimetres by 2050 and 80 centimetres by 2100. That meant that coastal development in such hazard areas was generally only permitted in special circumstances, such as for marine and fishing precincts .

As Dr Church and the Australian government’s sea level site both indicate, on current trends 80cm is within the range of business as usual projections.

A 2011 report by the Australian government found that more than A$226 billion worth of Australian homes, offices blocks, roads, rail and other built infrastructure would be potentially flooded or eroded with a sea level rise of 1.1 metres, which is the high end scenario they examined for 2100.

Ironically, of all Australian states, that report found Queensland faced the greatest combined risk from high tides and storm surges, and the costs they would face to replace damaged infrastructure. (The state-by-state cost estimates are shown below.)

Climate Change Risks to Coastal Buildings and Infrastructure, Australian Government, 2011

A national response to a national problem

In the two short years since that report was published, we have gone from a situation where all Australian governments were working together on a national approach to coastal planning, under the former National Coasts and Climate Change Council, to a trend towards dumping the risks and liabilities for coastal planning onto local councils.

This is already leaving some communities very exposed to rising costs. For instance, the Gold Coast is already hit by beach erosion costing tens of millions of dollars to remedy, and even greater costs could be incurred with further seawater intrusion and damage to infrastructure, such as storm water networks.

An aerial view of the Gold Coast, looking from Surfers Paradise down to Coolangatta, August 2013. www.shutterstock.com/Steven Bostock

Yet there is plenty of evidence to show why protecting coastal areas is the sensible option, and how to do it.

Over the past 50 years, there have been 25 national inquiries and reports into coastal management, including a comprehensive 396-page 2009 Coasts and Climate Change federal parliamentary report. Those inquiries have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that rather than leaving it to local councils, we need one set of clear, national guidelines on coastal development and infrastructure.

That’s the opposite of what we’re now seeing around Australia, with a mish-mash of different rules in different states.

All of which increases the risk of more development in areas at risk of coastal erosion, sea level rise and storm surges. Unless this changes, who’ll pay the price for this lack of foresight and planning? If you’re an Australian taxpayer, you will, and in the future so will your children.

Join the conversation

131 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    I continue to wonder why governments need to be involved at all.

    Doesn't it occur to anybody yet, to think for themself, and if they chose to take such risks that's their choice, and their responsibility?

    At some point there must surely be a measure at least of caveat emptor, and personal accountability, and not be off blaming governments all the time, or setting governments up to cop the blame, to underwrite insurance and oversee legislation in this respect, only to cover the actions of fools…

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    1. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I should add, I think, that when I was a kid the Gold Coast wasn't even there, it didn't exist.

      We went through all the arguments then, and still having to revisit them time and time and time again.

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    2. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Reality is for fools to be fools they need to be fooled. Basically liars running saying no greenhouse affect, no flooding, paid by greedy developers, who will develop buildings destined to be destroyed (double plus bonus land is cheaper because it is going to be flooded), sell them and abscond with the profits.
      Why do governments regulate because caveat emptor is for asshats, liars, cheats and frauds and by allowing this government is basically allowing blatant corruption.
      The simple answer is…

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I don't basically disagree with you, Robert, so there's no point raising it with me.

      It's the mug punters you need to convince, which is my point.

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    4. In reply to Tom Fisher

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. In reply to Tom Fisher

      Comment removed by moderator.

    6. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Almost every time I hear about the housing shortage I also hear calls for government to release more land for housing. Every new expansion of suburbia into the bush, further up the coast, river, estuary, or into the hills is not only facilitated by government, it is actually initiated by government. So when you call for government to get out, stay out or never be asked in to the process, you are looking at an empty stable. The horse left without a rider. It's gone, long ago.
      And who do you think…

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    7. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I hear the same thing as well, from some smart and educated people no less. Actually these are usually the same people that oppose public transport

      it's insane, obviously it's going to lead to a dead end

      I think more children should be forced to play sim city as homework - turns out building wide and at low density requires many roads and if you don't have Public transport it creates congestion and building more roads only lightens the load at certain points but you still get bottle necks unless you give a public transport solution which eases traffic, increases business and trade, etc

      Seriously, it sounds like nonsense but every Australian child should have to play sim city - the latest version even has environmental factors

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    8. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      And when I look at those high rise buildings on the GC seashore, I just think "good riddance" when they disappear below the inevitable waves. Building those things was a contributor to climate change, it's all they deserve.

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    9. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      "Reality is for fools to be fools they need to be fooled."

      I think it might be you who is being fooled here Robert.

      People DO like to be beside the seaside and when there are ever-increasing millions of them there has to be a solution.

      If you know any perfect solutions you should tell us but standing back and making vague condemnation isn't one.

      That mass of development that is the Gold Coast, that has been built with mostly private funds of people's hard earned, yet well regulated for the last 50 years, was never going to be any other way.

      The reality that you see is possibly as good as it gets.

      Sea levels haven't risen there in recorded history and may not for the foreseeable future.

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    10. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Methusela?

      The high rise buildings weren't -- but it was a holiday beach area for over a century :-)

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    11. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      To me this is all a reflection of the free market ideology and climate change denial which is part and parcel of it. That is not say say that these governments necessarily deny anthropogenic climate change but they don't believe it should interfere with their "free market". And we all know that our markets are anything but free, at least as far as the small man is concerned

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  2. Chris Owens

    Professional

    As much as I think a few metres of sea water over Surfers / Main Beach stretch would be an improvement over the current eyesore, not so much for the rest of the natural world.

    I suggest selling beachfront properties to deniers would be a win win. However I'm sure they will be the first to demand government support as they go under. Anyone not looking to offload their property within a few metres of sea level is taking a huge risk.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Chris Owens

      "However I'm sure they will be the first to demand government support as they go under."

      They said nyet to GM-H, surely they can do it again.

      I hear there'll be land at Fisherman's Bend, and at Elizabeth for resettlement.

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    2. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Owens

      No, GM-H said nyet to Australia. It was their choice, the government merely called on them to announce their decision finally when they might have been more forthcoming to start with, as might the ACTU.

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Thanks for that, Mr Fisher.

      The nyet the govt said to GM-H was to not hand more money over to them. It was only after that that GM-H made their call.

      Mention of the ACTU suggests that you wish to discuss matters other than rising sea-levels. I recommend that you join the discussion I'm having with one "Pauline Billington" on another 'TC' page, https://theconversation.com/holden-to-cease-making-cars-in-australia-by-2017-experts-react-21369, where the good Ms Billington writes "Thank the unions for putting Australian workers out of business."

      I responded as appropriate on that page, and I welcome your further comments there, not here.

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    4. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Chris Owens

      By the time the sea's that high......... there won't be any money.

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    5. Chris Owens

      Professional

      In reply to Chris Owens

      I tend to agree Mike, but I think when sea level rises are accepted by all as inevitable (in the near future), properties values close to sea level will collapse.

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    6. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Because sea level rise is seen by those who are not in denial as occurring incrementally over the long term there will be many who will be prepared to take the risk thinking they will be clever enough to get out before the the repercussions start to be evident and the market for these properties collapses.

      Reminds me a lot of how people respond to rising stock prices by investing in them in the belief they will be out of it before the bubble they know about does in fact burst.

      It's like a game of musical chairs.

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    7. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Sorry Ian, you sound like the one in denial.

      Do you think that the person who has bought an esplanade front penthouse for a few million hasn't got enough brains to figure out the real story?

      Though I will admit that due to the unscientific ranting that has been happening with "consensual science" of late, it could be improving as a buyer's market.

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    8. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Chris Owens

      I don't know why you're in de Nile Evelyn when you could be enjoying yourself on de Gold Coast instead.

      Didn't you know that there's an allegory in de Nile?

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    9. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Chris Owens

      Jim Inglis

      Correction Jim: Your quotation I believe is from Sheridan's Comedy "The Rivals" in which Mrs Malaprop says "...an allegory 'on the banks of'' the Nile" Hence the term Malapropism! Am I just being pedantic? Yes. Cheers, John Nicol

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    10. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Chris Owens

      You are quite right John. I love Malapropisms.

      But this time I was using some of Doug's poetic licence ☺.

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  3. George Michaelson

    Person

    What in practice can any level of government do? If they relocate, the compulsory purchase cost is spread back onto all of us. If they use insurance pressures, the premium cost is spread back onto all of us. If they attempt sea defence mitigation.. you can guess where this is going.

    We just had a 49/51 result nationally against increased socialized spend and taxes. (obviously I simplify, but its arguably one of the best defences Abbott has: his majority is NOT in favour of increased taxes, irrespective of the spend side)

    If you want to argue for increased activity modelling and managing coastal erosion, you need to make the LNP decide it wants to be a high tax party because the only mitigation private industry is going to do, is productive. Not socialized or wildlife beneficiary.

    My partner recalls a gold coast of low rise fibro. Same beach, same sunshine, same gritty wind, but no boardwalk or highrises. I think on balance, it was better.

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  4. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this, Dr Glikson.

    "we have gone from a situation where all Australian governments were working together on a national approach to coastal planning, ... to a trend towards dumping the risks and liabilities for coastal planning onto local councils."

    Crikey, but if I was in State or Federal government I'd be getting out of liability to what local government might do as quickly as I can.

    State or Federal? Well, Canberra's at altitude ~600m

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  5. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    Coastal erosion nor flooding and even different sea levels are all not new information and yet we do see prime examples of foolishness such as on the Gold Coast.
    The Gold Coast city council has even allowed developments to occur within what are designated 1 in 100 year flooding zones with conditions attached such as a house floor level being above that level and in some developments in former swamp land that may have been achieved by dredging for canals with spoil helping to raise building locations…

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    1. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, hopefully they will still be occupied by the people who are currently chanting "Global Warming Is Crap" - gets rid of two problems at once that way.

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    2. In reply to Greg North

      Comment removed by moderator.

  6. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    May I facetiously suggest, in the case of the Gold coast, that another sand spit be created another kilometre out to sea, behind which the existing strip could be safely protected from storm surges.
    The existing surf is crap anyway, so that will not be missed.
    And the land created by the new spit can be sold to speculators to pay for it all?
    What is not to like?
    And even more excitingly, new and permanent surf breaks could be built beyond the new spit so that good surfing waves could be guaranteed for the tourists.
    Work is apparently already underway, on such permanent engineered surf breaks along the existing coast,
    And the new spit would merely intercept the existing Eastern Australian Coast, northward moving, long-shore drift, with the further accumulation of sand, for the building of a second spit, to assisted by wave-powered machinery?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to James Hill

      They actually put in an artificial reef about fifteen years or so back James, just opposite Narrowneck where the park is that gets used for the GC race meeting, not just to create breaks but also to guard against a break through into the Nerang R.
      They did it using huge sand filled bags, having a special ship with an open bottom section so as they could fill a bag, position the ship and then let it drop like a great T., theory being that with enough of them, there would eventually be more sand depositing up against them.
      I know when they started, a lot of people were dubious about final success, especially when weather was not so great and delayed drops but on my last trip down a couple of years or so ago, it seemed there was a bit of surfing activity about, heaps of windblown sand all over the esplanade too.
      I reckon getting something a kilometre out to sea would be too big an ask unless we had some Saudis with plenty of money they wanted to invest.

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  7. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. In reply to Gerard Dean

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, when The Australian wrote about where Tim Flannery lived 2 years ago & implied much the same thing as you, it ended up with The Oz apologising and pulling the story. (You can read more about why The Oz apologised here: https://theconversation.com/bad-tidings-reporting-on-sea-level-rise-in-australia-is-all-washed-up-2639)

      And Flannery is not even mentioned in this article - so this post is clearly off topic.

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  8. Mark McGuire

    climate consensus rebel

    The Gold Coast is not the only city under threat: "Sydney Opera House Under Threat From Climate Change - Environment Minister Peter Garrett used the study to press the government’s case for an agreement on emissions cuts before an international conference on the issue in December." http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=au84zeUN9Qhk
    How ignorant is Jamie Packer to build Barangaroo and ignore the UN-IPCC settled science? What about the planning authority to allow it? http://www.barangaroo.com

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    1. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Maybe Jamie Packer had enough brains to take a look at Pinchgut and decide that as there had been no SLR there since the days of the sailing ships, he was pretty safe.

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Jim, "Jamie Packer had enough brains to take a look at Pinchgut" - shame he didn't have the brains to look at the science. On the other hand, he may be playing the developers' game of building something and flogging it off quickly, before the cracks start appearing. Could be he is as smart as he is wealthy, in which case his wealth will increase and good luck to him. Anyway, toppling into the sea is the best thing that could happen to a gambling den: I just wish we could throw all the pokies into the tide along with it. </rant>

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    3. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Doug, Packer, like his old man, has enough nous to draw his own conclusions about the "science".

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    4. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Jim, if Packer has the nous to understand the science, then my alternative explanation must be right: he plans to flog off his development as quickly as possible, to people who don't understand - or choose to ignore - the science. People not unlike your good self, perhaps?

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    5. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Don't geddit hey Doug?

      Packer understands the "science".

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  9. David Schoeman

    Biostatistician

    I am amazed that insurance underwriters will provide coverage for properties likely to be inundated by sea-level rise. In fact, I suspect that they will not. This means that the well-to-do get to live by the seaside, while the rest of us club together to cover their backs when things go wrong. It's the typical mantra of privatising profit and nationalising risk. On the plus side, if responsibility is passed to local level, local people have the opportunity to affect decisions in their back yards. The question is whether anybody will?

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    1. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to David Schoeman

      You're right, David. Any remotely interested person, without too much difficulty, can see that almost the entire Gold Coast, with its contiguous Moreton Bay coastline, in effect comprises the combined deltas of some very active river systems (Nerang, Coomera, Logan/Albert, and Brisbane) which flood regularly. Geologically, it’s a pretty unstable and dynamic region, with shifting streams, sandbanks and yes, even beaches. As sea-levels rise, this will become even more dynamic and less predictable…

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  10. Jim Inglis

    retired

    However the real world is somewhat different.

    The old building levels on the Gold Coast from the '50s have been raised but sea levels have not risen from that time.

    Gold Coast tide gauges don't have much long term data but the highest sea surge from cyclones was back in the '30s.

    During the '60s, erosion was a serious problem due to the extension of the Tweed River training walls and some of the beach front high rise foundations were exposed but with NSW finally building a sand bypass system…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      I must admit to it being a few years since I was last down Kirra way Jim and the state of affairs as it was then would explain the outcry over the Kirra Point break having gone missing and that was likely to have been as a result of the Tweed sand bypass system for whereas Greenmount adjacent to Kirra had been a lovely crescent shaped beach in the past with just the right amount of the fluffy white/golden stuff, there was no longer any crescent shape to the beach and in fact beach goers would have…

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      The Gold Coast is not an area of the earth which has avoided the impact of sea level rise, and there are a few, but they are impacted by the lessening weight of melting ice, and the earths crust rising. This is a map showing sea level rise around Australia. Northern and western Australia have higher rates than the rest of Australia which seems to be at about the mean rise of 3mm+ per year. Small yearly numbers quickly add up, and shouldn't be ignored.
      http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_hist_last_15.html

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    3. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      Alice, I put my head out the window.

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    4. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      "That could be a problem Jim,"

      No problem and much more accurate than those graphs Alice, which BTW, conflict with the SL maps which agree with my obs that there has been no SLR in the Gold Coast area.

      SLs have actually fallen there in the last 50 years.

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    5. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      Yes Greg, Kirra beach is back where it was in the '50s when they used to have the Kirra Quick Cats racing off the beach and like you say there was a couple of hundred metres of beach to get your Cat across to get to the water.

      That's where the schooner "Coolangatta" was wrecked in a blow in 1846. She was revealed by erosion again in the1974 cyclone and I got some bits from the wreck.

      The erosion comes and goes but it ain't SLR

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    6. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      Jim, "SLs have actually fallen there in the last 50 years" - where do you get that little gem from? Your magic window?

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    7. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      "SLs have actually fallen there in the last 50 years" - where do you get that little gem from?

      Just a few very specific benchmarks which I have been observing for the last 70 years.

      Beats the hell out of computer generated, poorly initialised, so-called satellite measurements.

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    8. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      "No problem and much more accurate than those graphs Alice, which BTW, conflict with the SL maps which agree with my obs that there has been no SLR in the Gold Coast area"
      What sea level maps?
      "Just a few very specific benchmarks which I have been observing for the last 70 years"
      Do you make statements based on actual maps, watching sand, or marking a bench.

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    9. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      "What sea level maps?"

      Alice, if you can't see, read or understand the details of your own links [used to refute my argument] then maybe you should not be commenting on something so complex as SLR.

      BTW I have been observing highest astronomical tides, storm surges and coastal floods against fixed benchmarks all my life and do not see any evidence of the supposed SLR as claimed by Church and White which is based on known faulty data.

      That is not to say that SLR may not happen. Just that it is not happening yet in the area I observe.

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    10. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      But the maps I referred you to are not the one you mention, in your words..."conflict with the SL maps which agree with my obs that there has been no SLR in the gold coast area"
      Which are these?
      Telling me I can't read the two references I cited, is neither here nor there.
      As you stated, (mine) are not accurate, "and much more accurate than those graphs" referring to some graphs you use "the SL maps which agree"
      -You tell me the maps which I cite are not accurate.
      -You tell me that you use more accurate SL maps.
      -You then try to confuse the issue and tell me I don't understand how to read the SL maps I cite.
      -I'm not interested in your benchmarks and observations
      - Which are the more accurate sea level maps you refer to Jim, so that we can all see.

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    11. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Jim Inglis

      I remember -- I remember. It must have been in about 1965.

      When a lot of kids drowned at Surfers Paradise when they had smum out to a sand bar and were enjoying the surf until a Common or Garden Surfers Paradise Dumper rolled in and washed the entire sand bar away!

      I also remember during the period from the 1960s onwards the perpetual problems the Sydney Beaches had with the frequent loss of the whole beach up to where the stones had been dumped to allow buildings on what would otherwise have been dunes.

      Right up to when the Soil Conservation Service (of blessed memory) started Dune Care.

      Of course Queensland decided on canal residential subdivisons instead:-(

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  11. Colin Samundsett

    retired BSurv

    There is nothing new in regard to available evidence of past and existing coastal hazards. Nor is there anything new in society’s planning authorities/governments ignoring the certainty of recurrence of demonstrated hazard. Geologist/Geomorphologist Fred Whitehouse lectured, in the mid-1950s, on the natural cycle of slow build-up of Gold-Coast dunes from steady drift northwards of sand outflowing from the Clarence River; and their rapid destruction due to storm waves generated by northern cyclones…

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  12. Daniel Boon

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I believe that politicians and bureaucrats promoting this policy been legally pursued rather than the existing (a la Catholic church) absolutions...

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  13. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Interesting Article, I would like to see nation wide planning ala lesson from the loess plateau

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  14. Mike Pope

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    The problem with sea level rise (SLR) is that among prominent climate scientists, there is no agreement, other than that we are assured of a 1 metre rise by 2100 – but that is seen by many as very conservative.

    Basically SLR by 2100 depends on the speed with which land-based ice melts and expands as oceans warm. In essence that means the speed with which the polar ice sheets flow into the sea. The IPCC and John Church appear to be claiming that over the next 100 years the polar ice caps will…

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    1. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mike Pope

      "Then please explain why mass loss from the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets has more than doubled per decade over the last 2 decades and is continuing that rate of increase?."

      Satellite geodetic measurements are not believable and now GRASP is sorting out GRACE:

      http://ilrs.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/GRASP_COSPAR_paper.pdf

      It's net loss that matters and did you notice how far under the Greenland Ice Glacier Girl was?

      265 feet I seem to remember.

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    2. Mike Pope

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Mike Pope

      Yes, but I am talking net rate of loss.

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    3. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mike Pope

      Jim, "Sorta shoots the GHG theory to bits" - I sincerely wish you were a credible source of information, because it would be excellent to receive credible information that the GHG theory has been shot to bits. Shame there is no such credible science to support your claim ...

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    4. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Mike Pope

      "Shame there is no such credible science to support your claim ..."

      If you spent 5 minutes looking and weren't so brainwashed Doug, or even studied that link above, you might see for yourself that there's plenty of evidence.

      "If there is correlation, the theory COULD be right, if there is no correlation, the theory is WRONG !"

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    1. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Doug, for a poet, you seem to suffer from an excess of anxiety about our impending doom.

      I thought poets were of a more philosophical bent. Have you checked that benchmark at the Isle of the Dead at Port Arthur that was put there over 170 years ago?

      There have been all sorts of stories concocted by the "science" about why it is indicating a slight SLR over that time but it is more likely showing a fall in SLs over the same period.

      Either way, there is nothing to lose any sleep over and there is plenty of this sort of evidence on AGW everywhere.

      So a Rhodes Scholar is probably smart enough to realise that the best policy is one of "no regrets".

      And who knows? As in Homer's Iliad, Zeus may take pity and bestow on you the capacity to survive anyway.

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    2. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Jim, 'stories concocted by the "science"' indicates you may be less than objective, if science for you is concocted by people of evil intent. I prefer to read the original science, pro or con, and come to my own conclusions about what is legitimate and what is concocted. If all the converging lines of evidence supporting AGW have been concocted, our society has big problems.
      Who to believe? I'll go with the ones quietly doing their jobs and publishing their results, rather than the shrill ones who can only throw rocks.

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    3. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      "if science for you is concocted by people of evil intent."

      Does exaggeration qualify as poetic licence, Doug?

      Please go back and read what I said.

      And if you are prepared to discuss the "science", so am I.

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    4. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Ian, you're probably just upset that you missed out when those million dollar waterfront blocks were selling for $500.

      Fibro shacks that were falling into the sea in the '60s were patched up and sold years later for $20 million. Then renovated and resold for $50 million.

      Pretty hard to deny fundamental facts like that.

      Faith and denial are other peoples problems.

      I would have expected a retired accountant to know the real world a little better.

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  16. Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

    logged in via LinkedIn

    The simple fact is that waves roll in and erode the seashore just as they always have done and as they always will, the only role that government has in any of this natural occurrence is to stop allowing developers to build on the shoreline. However with dollars added to the government bottom line from the developers who sell "exclusive" beachfront property to cashed up people the chances of stopping the lunacy is equal only to the chances of stopping the waves rolling in.

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  17. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    The photo is typical scare mongering. Shores have been eroding and retreating for 4 billion years. There is no change to that. It will always happen.

    Sea level rise is a trivial cost; a 0.5 m sea level rise bu 2100 is estimated to have an economic impact on the world's economy of about $0.2 trillion on $20,000 trillion global GDP to 2100 (all in 2011 US $). So, as I said, the cost of sea level rise is trivial. Richard Tol, a world leading authority on impacts of climate change, puts the cost of sea level rise in perspective - i.e. negligible (see Figure 3 here: http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/sites/default/files/climate_change.pdf )

    Figure 3 also shows that the item which is the predominant negative influence of global warming is the cost of energy. So, if the greenies would allow the world to have cheap nuclear power, global warming could be net beneficial for all this century and beyond. But the greenies don't really want to solve the problems, do they?

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      You're not keeping up. You should read IPCC AR5.

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    2. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      YOU're not keeping up........... IPC Reprts are so outdated by the time they come out they are almost irrelevant.

      The change happening in the arctic is happening so fast, the pole could be ice free 70 years before the IPCC forecasted............

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    3. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      If you'd kept up you'd know there is not catastrophe, and catastrophe has effectively been ruled out by AR5 which was released about a month or so ago.

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    4. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Marvellous innit!

      How they kept all those records!

      Or even GOT them! I din't know that the Australians had thermometers then.

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    5. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I'll bett they're building those big ships to tow oil platforms through ice..

      Re the ice thickness:

      NASA's Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, collected data which indicate that the Arctic sea ice thickness is as much as 50 percent thinner than it was in previous decades, going from an average thickness of 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) in 1980 to 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) in recent years.

      The thinning is due to the loss of older, thicker ice, which is being replaced by thinner seasonal…

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    6. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Peter Lang

      That's true Mike, but you have to remember that there have been many known periods in history when the Arctic sea ice was in similar condition.

      Consider Amundsen sailing through over a hundred years ago with no charts or very functional nav gear.

      There would have to have been enormous areas of open water.

      Consider Frobisher, Davis, Cabot et al 450 years ago in those old clunkers that would go "nary an inch to windward" in which case at least 50% of the open ocean was denied them yet they still sailed and explored in those waters.

      The odds are that there was a lot less ice then than now.

      Our "comprehensive" sea ice records only go back 35 years ☺.

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    7. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      "Consider Frobisher, Davis, Cabot et al 450 years ago in those old clunkers that would go "nary an inch to windward" in which case at least 50% of the open ocean was denied them"

      NONE of them made it. Half the NW passage is NOT in the Arctic Ocean, it's between Canadian islands farther South.... and I reckon 100% of the Ocean was "denied them" because it was covered in sea ice!

      Sought by explorers for centuries as a possible trade route, it was first navigated by Roald Amundsen in 1903–1906. Until 2009, the Arctic pack ice prevented regular marine shipping throughout most of the year, but climate change has reduced the pack ice, and this Arctic shrinkage made the waterways more navigable
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage

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    8. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Peter Lang

      "NONE of them made it."

      Amundsen made it. Long before "global warming".

      And if you can't appreciate why the others didn't, likely as a result of technology rather than climate, then you're not thinking.

      When we don't know the full story, we can't be certain about any aspects of the situation.

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    9. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      A one in one hundred years event. Soon to be possible all year 'round. But nothing to see here, move right along....

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    10. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Despite substantial uncertainties, especially for the period prior to 1600 for which data are scarce, the warmest period of the last 2,000 years prior to the 20th century very likely occurred between 950 and 1100, but temperatures were probably between 0.1 °C and 0.2 °C below the 1961 to 1990 mean and significantly below the level shown by instrumental data after 1980. Proxy records from different regions show peak warmth at different times during the Medieval Warm Period, indicating the heterogeneous nature of climate at the time.[11] Temperatures in some regions matched or exceeded recent temperatures in these regions, but globally the Medieval Warm Period was cooler than recent global temperatures.[8]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period

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    11. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Mike Stasse

      I believe the NW passage had been free of ice in the 1920s and Russian shipping was reportedly much freer than now.and again blocked with ice since then. There was not much warming to do with carbon dioxiide in 1903.

      Fridtjof Nansen, of Sweden, reached a record northern latitude of 86°14′ during a North Pole kayaking expedition of 1896 (600 km from the pole). A subsequent attempt to beat that record by someone from the UK was only able to reach a point about 00 km fom it in about 2006. Gordon Brown, the then UK PM congratulated him on his effprt but it did not get much traction as is was so much further from the pole than Nansen. I am not sure how all this fits with ice levels and magnitudes.

      However, it has been known that the climate has been warmed significantly since the last ice age about 10,000 years ago - why is that? Why has it warmed from 1800 to 1900 without the stimulus from CO2?
      John Nicol

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    12. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Jim, "Amundsen made it", but it took him three years. Not exactly a summer cruise through open water.

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    13. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Peter Lang

      " but it took him three years"

      Doug, it's one thing to do it today in steel or plastic yachts with reliable diesel engines, wonderfully explicit sat nav aids, radar, all the traffic and 2-way radio support that's up there holding your hand etc as opposed to being all alone in a wooden sailing boat where one close encounter with ice and you're dead.

      Not to mention those huge nuclear powered ice breakers rushing about busting it all up for you.

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    14. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Mike Stasse

      Yes, you may well be buggered Mike! I did not say that the Russians used the NW Passage which is not part of their coastline which is on the opposite side of the Pole, in case you had not realised that. I simply said that Russian shipping is more difficult now than in the 1920s.
      John Nicol

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    15. Mike Stasse

      Retired Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      That boat's not Russian........ it belongs to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police!

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    16. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Peter Lang

      "The latest ice core drilling up there shows MWP temps 8c warmer than now"

      And when, pray tell, is this so-called "now"?

      By the way Jim, you never got round to answering "Who is CERTAIN that there 0.0C of global warming in 17 years?"

      Is it YOU or ME?

      You wouldn't want us to think that by not answering that you're just a troll, would you Jim?

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    17. In reply to Peter Lang

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    19. In reply to Peter Lang

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  18. Geoffrey Sherrington

    Surveyor

    There is scant evidence that the Hand of Man has much affected sea level change.
    Sea levels have been getting higher with respect to land for many decades now, including periods before large production of GHG and before Man can be reasonably implicated.
    A portion of the change, perhaps the dominant portion, must be natural. No proper attribution of change can be made in any case because there is so little data on expansion or contraction of deep oceans comprising about half of the ocean volume…

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  19. Evelyn Haskins

    retired

    The problem is NOT with sea levelrise, so much as building in know flood prone areas or on sand bars.

    Surfers Paradise allowed high rise building to be built on sand bars -- aka 'shifting sands'. These frequently would wash away in heavy weather naturally.

    King Canute needed to demonstrate to his foolish courtiers that humans could not command the ocean. Yet humans are still so arrogant that they still think that somehow you can command the oceans.

    It is utterly foolish to continue to spend millions of dollars on trying to prevent sand bars being washed away. If left to themselves they would re-build naturally within a short time.

    I feel that whoever was responsible for zoning those areas for permanent buildings should be paying the price to relocate development back onto firm ground above spring tide and storm surge levels.

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    1. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      "Surfers Paradise allowed high rise building to be built on sand bars -- aka 'shifting sands'."

      Evelyn, can you point to one of these?

      Almost the whole Gold Coast flood plain is sand.

      It is one of the best foundations you can build on. But as for building high rise on sand bars that shift with the tides, that is nonsense.

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Manhattan is built on granite. I'm not so sure this fact helped stop flooding when sandy hit.
      In the event of flooding in the rivers surrounding the Gold Coast, combined with high tides and storm surges, and higher sea levels, will lead to an increasing cost.
      There should be thought applied to the future, based on credible science. And pretending events won't happen, which are exacerbated by rising sea levels and climate change is naive.
      But maybe there could be a vote in the gold coast shire, and rates could pick up the tab. Fine by me.

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    3. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Jim. I presume that you are not a geologist, then?

      Sand does NOT make a good foundation at all. Good foundations go down to bed-rock.

      I don't need to point to "AN" example. But I do remember seeing the 'foundations' built for the Travelodge -- they were dug into clean beach sand down about four floors (or more) deep. As I remember it they still didn't get to bed rock!

      Which means that the building was on unconsolidated sediments AT sea level.

      Call it a 'flood plain' if you will but it is really coastal lagoons. It is hte sea water that washed it away, not flood water.

      It is in no way fit for builing anything other than beach shacks on. Probably better for caravan parks -- as I believe it used to be.

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    4. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      "There should be thought applied to the future, based on credible science."

      There has been a lot of that Alice and as I said above, floor levels for habitable rooms have been raised.

      But the evidence to support the argument for higher building levels is not there in spite of so called measurements of SLR for the last century.

      But they did it as a "no regrets" policy.

      IOW, there is no measured SLR but they are raising building levels anyway. Which is the reverse of what they are being accused of here.

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    5. Evelyn Haskins

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Apart from the fact that I was actually thinking of Long Island which does consist of unconsolidated aquifers (http://www.columbia.edu/~vjd1/LI_groundwater.htm )

      Or in other words it is a sand island albeit with some clay strata.

      Manhattan on the other hand is apparently rock --"Middle Proterozoic Fordham Gneiss, the Cambrian Manhattan Formation, and of the Cambrian and Ordovician Inwood Marble".

      Not a skerrick of granite though.

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    6. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      "Sand does NOT make a good foundation at all. Good foundations go down to bed-rock."

      No, Evelyn, I am not a geologist and I wasn't aware they built high rise buildings.

      Assessing ideal foundations is a very complex issue and involves looking at every possibility of every type of potential disaster plus it has to be economically sound.

      But a sand foundation on a floodplain is arguably as good as you can expect.

      Why else would they import sand into a site to convert it to a 100% sand foundation?

      Some of the tallest buildings on the GC these days have foundations that penetrate the bedrock but the older high rise that were built with earlier technology have survived 50 years of cyclones and flooding on multi-pile raft foundations in sand without problems.

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    7. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Jim Inglis

      I appreciate your comment and the remark "there is no measured SLR but they are raising building levels anyway"

      Precautions should be taken in a sensible way, but ultimately it should be up to the individual to decide what risks are worth taking, as in all things for life in a free society. People make life style decisions for example with the caveat "I will live here of do this, for five years, fifteen years, or whatever.

      Often these are major changes to lifestyle which…

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    8. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Thanks John for your comprehensive thoughts.

      The pressure to develop these beautiful ocean fronts where natural destructive forces will possibly have the last word is huge and I agree that the owners should always take the risk themselves.

      In the past, people who owned houses that got washed away, personally suffered the loss but in this age of expected govt handout we think it should be socialised.

      Your comment on the last Brisbane flood is a case in point as the mechanics for major flood prevention [Wivenhoe] through bad or unfortunate management ended up causing major damage from what should have been only a medium flood.

      And we will all have to pay.

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    9. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Evelyn Haskins

      Thanks so much for your reply Evelyn, tomatoes tomatoes, I've always heard about the Manhattan granite bedrock. In New York it's referred to as granite, http://www.ny.com/histfacts/geography.html
      It turns out to be largely Manhattan schist, composition; quartz, feldspar, and mica. Go figure.
      http://www.centralparknyc.org/visit/things-to-see/south-end/umpire-rock.html
      Which is beside the point, increasingly, when they happen, occurrences of flooding and storm surge damage due to SLR will impact places on our coastline which by their geography, are vulnerable. Like the gold coast. Sand is a great foundation, yes for a coastal garden.

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  20. Vicki High

    company director

    a council on the NSW coast - which shall remain nameless - was sued by three residents after their houses were washed away due to high seas... Their argument was that the council should have known the houses would be at risk and so should not have allowed the owners to build there... Council lost in the first instance.

    Council's response was to engage experts to draw a line down the coast as to where the beach line would be in 50 years time. Once this was completed, council made a determination…

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    1. Jim Inglis

      retired

      In reply to Vicki High

      When the bad cyclone cycles of earlier decades return, there is huge potential for damage along our coastline and councils must be worried.

      It needs to be somehow pointed out to people in this nanny age that losses won't be socialised.

      But councils nevertheless should not avoid their responsibility to repair and protect against erosion.

      There have been cases, I seem to recall, where some councils have prevented people from even protecting their own homes.

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  21. Vicki High

    company director

    just a suggestion re comments that are removed by the moderator - would it be possible for a few words indicating WHY the comment was removed??? eg, "inappropriate language" "personal attack on another contributor", etc???

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  22. Liz Minchin

    Queensland Editor at The Conversation

    Dear all,
    We've been asked why the comments on this article & a couple of other climate articles are now closed. The main reason is simple: basic lack of courtesy, with too many comments like "you are a bag of wind" "grow up" "shut up" etc - which sounds more like something you'd expect to hear in a primary school playground, not in debate between adults.

    That then generates a stack of email complaints, which get forwarded to us editors. The Conversation is still publishing right through the…

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