Sydney Environment Institute

EVENTS

THE SMALL CHANGES: 'Coastal vulnerability to sea level rise'

Conveying the complexity of problems associated with sea level rise and how to go about making decisions about them at a community level

Wednesday 23 March 2016
6.00 – 7.30pm

Law School Foyer Level 2, Sydney Law School University of Sydney

Event also featured on Domain –Waterfront Homes ‘at Risk’ Within the next 30 years, Experts Warn’

The highly-successful Small Changes: Environmental Conversation series continues in 2016 with a line-up of exciting new conversations. Hosted by Sydney Environment Institute and Sydney Ideas these events will share research on how we can make those small changes to our every day in order to save our environment. All events feature researchers from the University of Sydney alongside practitioners.

This year’s events will be hosted by Tina Perinotto, Publisher and Editor from The Fifth Estate.

Our love affair with coastal living is at risk.

Coastal properties and infrastructure systems in Australia are being significantly impacted with intensified storm surges and beach erosion processes. As the environment changes, there is mounting interest in local values in the literature on climate change adaptation and planning. But this appears to raise more questions than answers. Can local values help us in negotiating the conflicting interests associated with the beach or choosing amongst adaptation options, from engineering protection measures to rezoning and retreat? And, more broadly, how do we reconcile the local nature of climate change impacts with the various levels of ecological, institutional and legal processes at play?

In this talk, Associate Professor Abbas El-Zein, School of Civil Engineering, University of Sydney and Tayanah O’Donnell, University of Canberra unpack the complexities associated with rising sea levels and the decision-making being made at a municipal level.

Drawing on a rich literature on adaptation and his own research on the assessment of vulnerability to sea level rise, Abbas El-Zein will discuss these questions and suggest some answers. He is interested in problems of contamination and hydro-mechanical behaviour of saturated and partially-saturated soils, assessment of vulnerability to climate change, as well as the broad links between technology, poverty and environmental degradation in the developing world.

Tayanah’s discussion will explore the continued love affair with coastal living in Australia, in the context of  the expected more frequent and more intense coastal weather events which in turn will see increased risks to coastal property. Measures to adequately address these risks may include planning policies, climate adaptation strategies, and engineering options to protect coastal property. When such measures fail, the law can be invoked to provide remedy.

Questions on whether this is adequate remedy, and to what end, can arise, particularly in the context of long term sustainability of the coastline. Additional values-laden perspectives may be challenged in the context of prioritisation of the public beach.

 

Speakers:

Associate Professor Abbas El-Zein, School of Civil Engineering Faculty of Engineering and IT, University of Sydney.

Abbas El-Zein is interested in problems of contamination and hydro-mechanical behaviour of saturated and partially-saturated soils, assessment of vulnerability to climate change, as well as the broad links between technology, poverty and environmental degradation in the developing world

Tayanah O’Donnell, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra.

Tayanah’s current role is primarily with two of the four National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) research networks looking at issues of coastal settlements and infrastructure, and the social, economic and institutional dimensions of climate change adaptation.

Credit: © Mark Bakovic/Demotix/Corbis