Australian Beach Life At Risk As Environment Drops Down Agenda

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Australian Beach Life At Risk As Environment Drops Down Agenda

He is worried about climate change. He is worried about a lack of government funding for environmental initiatives. And now he is also worried that the coronavirus pandemic will slow down vital action to protect Australia’s beaches.

“We’re a bit worried – we had the bushfires, and now this latest crisis with coronavirus, the bottom line will suffer,” May said from his home in South Durras, a small town near Batemans Bay on the New South Wales (NSW) south coast.

As a result of COVID-19,  the 2020 UN Climate Summit has already been cancelled, while US President Donald Trump has taken the opportunity to complete his rollbacks of emission regulations despite research indicating a correlation between air pollution and coronavirus deaths.

May is a founding member of the South Durras branch of Landcare, a grassroots movement set up across Australia in the late 1980s to manage environmental issues in local communities. He knows that when governments face financial issues, funding for environmental programmes are often cut because they seem like easy targets.

“The things that get defunded first will be programmes for the environment and the arts,” he said. “Things people think we can survive without. They take our beaches for granted.”

The Australian Coastal Councils Association agrees that the country must act as soon as possible to mitigate the impact of erosion.

“What we’re looking at now is a serious downturn in tourism in Australia with coronavirus,” Executive Director, Alan Stokes, told Al Jazeera.

“But if we lose our beaches, that would be disastrous.”

Nature’s defence 

Sandy beaches are many nations’ first line of defence against storms and floods. Protecting them is especially crucial in urban areas, where beaches are unable to shift inland due to infrastructure and homes.

Beaches do erode naturally and change with storm events, but climate change means that they are altering faster than ever before. New research reported in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that Australia could lose 15,000km of beachfront by 2100.

“Beaches are naturally dynamic environments,” explained Hannah Power, a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle’s School of Environment and Life Sciences. “They have coped with changes before, but one of the big challenges now is that we’ve built a lot of cities around coastal regions.”

https://www.aljazeera.com

The problem, Power explains, is that humans like to live by the beach, and often this means there is no “buffer zone” between development and the beach itself. The beach cannot transgress inland as it normally would, leading to dramatic scenes such as those on Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach in Sydney in 2016 where pools and houses were left hanging over sharp sand cliffs following a major storm.

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“Erosion can happen very quickly in a storm,” Power says. “With storms, sand is transported into the offshore region onto sandbars. When conditions calm down, smaller waves transport sand back onshore. But it takes 10 times longer to bring the sand back than it does to displace it.”

“In developed areas, [what happens] will depend on how we mitigate erosion and what climate change path we take. This means we need to do something immediately.”

 

Australian Beach Life At Risk As Environment Drops Down Agenda

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