We love the coast. It looms large in our collective psyche as a place where we live, work and play. As another summer nears the half-way mark, hundreds of thousands of Victorians have already made their way to the coast to enjoy swimming, fishing, surfing, camping and other coastal-related activities. More are expected in the coming weeks before summer draws to an end.
Also looming large is the risk of climate change significantly impacting on our coast. The Victorian Coastal Strategy, released in late 2008, states that we must plan for sea level rises of not less than 0.8 metres by 2100.
At first glance, this may not sound like much or appear to be too far ahead in the future to worry about. However, sea level rises of the magnitude predicted, along with associated storm surges, will impact substantially on beaches and infrastructure along the coast. And we will start to see these impacts sooner rather than later.
Climate change therefore does represent a major risk to all the things we love about our coast – its natural environment, its cultural heritage, a place to enjoy and relax.
While we ponder this, let’s not also forget the coast’s significant economic value.
Coastal industries and tourism contribute more than $2.8 billion each year to the Victorian economy. Visitors to our own Great Ocean Road region – with its spectacular coastline and adjoining hinterland – spend more than $1 billion annually, underpinning not just local and regional economies but also a large chunk of the Victorian and Australian tourism experience.
Consequently, we must recognise that the coast’s value to us – on both an individual and a broader economic level – is contingent on the value of the coast itself. That is, a healthy coast equals healthy communities – and a healthy economy.
There is a high risk that climate change will noticeably diminish the health of our coast. Given this risk and the coast’s importance in our lives, it is essential that new and ongoing investment focuses on protecting the coast.
We need to protect high quality areas of native vegetation, cultural sites and estuaries. We also need to undertake beach protection works, as well as providing car parks, walking tracks, lookouts, signage and other facilities to support our use of the coast.
And importantly, we all need to do our bit to reduce the risk of climate change.
In just the same way as our greenhouse gas emissions are warming the climate and contributing to sea level rise, which in turn threatens the coast, our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help lessen the impacts of climate change and therefore help to protect the coast.
In other words, we all need to become climate changers – for the benefit of our beautiful coast.
Posted by David Clarke, CEO