Past, present and future landscapes: Understanding alternative futures for climate change adaptation of coastal settlements and communities

Philip Morley, Jamie Trammell, Ian Reeve, Judith McNeil, David Brunckhorst and Scott Bassett

A Scenario Analysis of the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales was used to test the existing Regional Plan under predicted climate change impacts of sea-level rise (SLR), storm surges, flood impact and beach recession. A "deregulated' future scenario" – one in which only minimal constraints are placed on land use – displayed the greatest potential vulnerabilities to the climate impacts modelled. The most extreme scenario was the Deregulated Future-high growth variant, which suggested that 0.5m to 1.0m of SLR will affect 1,200 ha of the region, displacing up to 19,000 people. In most of the other futures scenarios, even under the high-growth variants, SLR up to 1.0m was likely to only displace 2,000 people. The inclusion of a 1.5m to 2.5m SLR/storm surge threshold resulted in double and sometimes triple the urban impacts. While flooding is primarily temporary and may not lead to permanent displacement (unlike SLR), it appears that most of the focus on disaster reduction and management should be placed on protecting the current floodplain from development and methods to reduce the impact of inundation events. In addition to the scenarios of physical impacts, the study considers how social vulnerability to climate change impacts might be assessed. An analysis of current census-based demographic patterns reveals clear guides both in the drivers of vulnerability, and in the spatial patterns of vulnerability, that can suggest planning and social policies to reduce the risks in the future to the socially disadvantaged.

Resource Type: 
Research report
New South Wales
Storms, cyclones

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