Pacific infrastructure faces massive climate change cost
New research says Pacific countries face an enormous cost to protect coastal infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.
New research says Pacific Island countries face an enormous cost to protect coastal infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.
A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has analysed the vulnerability to rising sea levels and extreme weather events of 12 countries, seeking to determine the risk of critical infrastructure.
One of the study's authors, Dr Lalit Kumar from the University of New England in Australia, told Jamie Tahana the cost of replacing infrastructure in harm's way is about 21 billion US dollars, more than many of the countries can afford.
DR LALIT KUMAR: This is the first research that has been conducted on this scale looking at every single island in those twelve countries. For most of them we have point locations of every single built infrastructure on their land. So this includes all the residential buildings, commercial, refineries, ports and even bridges, so very extensive data done for this full region which nobody has done in the past. So there's a lot of data out there to inform people what is at risk and what action can be taken.
JAMIE TAHANA: How at risk are they?
LK: Look, we have done this analysis in four bands, we have looked at infrastructure within zero to 50 metres of the coastline, then 50 to 100 metres, 100 to 200 metres, and then 200 metres to 500 metres of the coastline. The reason we used this four different bands whilst that for sandy or coral islands which have low maximum elevations, the incline from the coast is much lower, so anything within 200 to 500 metres will be impacted, where as on a volcanic island, which has much higher maximum elevations, a distance to zero to 50 metres maybe much better because the incline is much higher, so those distances have to be looked at with what island types we are looking at.
JT: Some of these island types you have looked at are Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, these low-lying atolls, all their infrastructure is 100 metres from the coastline because the islands are 100 metres wide. So what can these countries do? What does this tell them?
LK: You feel sorry for some of these island countries there's not much they can do, many of these islands are less than 100 to 200 metres across, so most of the infrastructure falls very, very close to the coastline, one important use of this data is that they can look and can see where the assets are most at risk and if they are planning on new infrastructure, probably where to locate it but they can't do much else, it's very difficult to pick up a building and move it to somewhere else, and especially if there is no where else to move.
JT: And for the countries that can something, the estimated cost strengthening the infrastructure and stuff is 21 billion US dollars, that's a lot more than a lot of these countries GDP, isn't it?
LK: Absolutely, in the figure we quote over here of about 22 billion dollars, that's only for the assets that we have assess, the real cost will be much, much higher. For example, most of the tourism related assets are on the coast, what I'm trying to drive at is when these assets are impacted it is going to impact on the tourism market as well, and also the GDP of the country, so the flow-on effect is a lot greater than what assets themselves cost. The figures that we show here are much higher than the GDP of many of these countries and to expect them to be able to manage mitigation themselves is going to be difficult.
The research is part of a larger project funded by the Australian Government to help it prioritise its aid effort in the Pacific.
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