Climate Change: Sea Level Rise and the Gippsland Coast? 27.1

Proposal for coastal research to be done on the impacts of sea level rise.

A. Barrie Pittock - Climate Change

When recently sorting through boxes of notes in the process of downsizing I came across an interesting 6 page proposal for coastal research to be done on the impacts of sea level rise. The note was by A. Barrie Pittock author of the standard Australian text Climate Change ( Barrie regularly holidays near Lakes Entrance and has done so for 30 years. He is now retired but worked as a climate scientist in the CSIRO Department of Atmospheric Physics for many years. In 2008 he roughed out his brief “Outline for Proposal for Research on Coastal Impacts of S(ea) L(evel) R(ise)” as a response to climate sceptic Bjorn Lomborg’s claim that “nobody noticed” the 15cm sea level rise that occurred in the 20th Century and that “therefore a 30cm rise in the 21st century will be of no consequence.”

Pittock pointed out that Lomborg’s 30cm may be a considerable underestimate and suggests that a 1m rise was more likely. He then stated that “what interests me is did anyone notice a sea level rise last century, and how widespread was this?” Anecdotally I am aware of a storm that destroyed a toilette block at Lake Tyers Beach in the 50s or 60s. They may be many other local examples. But severe storm damage only appears to have been noticed when human constructions have been threatened or destroyed.

Pittock suggests an in-depth historical survey as part of an exhaustive coastal survey covering sea level rise including local changes, erosion, sediment transport, subsidence and extreme weather events. He suggests that then we should “attempt local modelling exercises of past changes, taking account of sediment transport, and other local factors…” and then analyse “options for adaption including coastal defences, zoning, infrastructure design, retreat…” Barrie Pittock may have had the Gippsland Coast in mind when roughing out his proposal. As far as I am aware a study along the lines suggested by Pittock is yet to be done.