Australia is surrounded by coast line but the ocean is encroaching further and further. Picture: Lachie Millard
Australia is surrounded by coast line but the ocean is encroaching further and further. Picture: Lachie Millard

Australia’s beaches face dire threat

Almost half of the world's sandy beaches could be gone by 2100 if climate change continues as is, according to a new study published on Monday.

And Australia would likely be one of the worst hit given its entirely surrounded by coastline.

The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, forecasts further erosion along densely populated coastlines. The scientists used satellite imagery to track how beaches have changed over the past 30 years.

More than 12,000km of Australian beaches are threatened by coastal erosion.

"A substantial proportion of the world's sandy coastline is already eroding, a situation that could be exacerbated by climate change," researchers wrote in the study's abstract. "Here, we show that ambient trends in shoreline dynamics, combined with coastal recession driven by sea level rise, could result in the near extinction of almost half of the world's sandy beaches by the end of the century."

 

Australia is surrounded by coastline, but the ocean is encroaching further and further. Picture: Lachie Millard
Australia is surrounded by coastline, but the ocean is encroaching further and further. Picture: Lachie Millard

Speaking with The Associated Press, the study's lead author, Michalis Vousdoukas, said half of these beaches "will experience erosion that is more than 100 metres. It's likely that they will be lost."

Beaches are valuable for recreation, tourism and wildlife while also providing a natural barrier that protects coastal communities from waves and storms. A study published in February suggested that extreme weather events caused by climate change could result in an economic recession "the likes of which we've never seen before".

Many coastal areas, including beaches, are already heavily affected by human activity such as seashore construction and inland dams, which reduce the amount of silt flowing into oceans that's crucial for beach recovery.

"A substantial proportion of the threatened sandy shorelines are in densely populated areas, underlining the need for the design and implementation of effective adaptive measures," the authors wrote in the study's abstract.

Some places will be affected significantly worse than others. The study's authors estimate that Gambia and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa could lose more than 60 per cent of their beaches.

Australia could be the worst hit in terms of total beach coastline lost at more than 12,000 kilometres.

The US, Canada, Mexico, China, Iran, Argentina and Chile were also at risk of losing thousands of kilometres of coastline, the study added.

Scientists say that half of the world's sandy beaches are at risk of disappearing by the end of the century if climate changes continues unchecked. Picture: AP Photo / Craig Litten
Scientists say that half of the world's sandy beaches are at risk of disappearing by the end of the century if climate changes continues unchecked. Picture: AP Photo / Craig Litten

Multiple scenarios were taken into account by Prof Vousdoukas and the other researchers, including one where there is a 2.4 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures and another one that rises twice that amount.

A separate study published in February suggested that if global temperatures were to rise 0.5 degrees Celsius over the next 50 years, approximately half of the world's species would become locally extinct. If temperatures were to rise 2.9 degrees Celsius, 95 per cent of the species would become locally extinct.

The landmark Paris Climate Agreement, which the US agreed to in 2015 under the Obama administration, was not taken into account, Prof Vousdoukas told the AP, because it was considered unlikely to be achieved. In early November, the Trump administration began its formal withdrawal from the agreement.

Australia is still a part of the agreement but drew the ire of other nations for fighting to be able to use carry-over credits from the Kyoto Protocol.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has now said Australia will use the credits to "meet and beat" a 2030 target of reducing emissions to 26 per cent below 2005 levels only "if we have to".

As part of the Paris Climate Agreement, which nearly 200 nations signed, including China, the long-term goal is to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Despite the dire outcome of the study, not all hope is lost. The study's authors said that even a "moderate" reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could prevent 40 per cent of the potential shoreline retreat.

This article originally appeared on Fox News and was reproduced with permission


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