Coastal Erosion Already On The Rise, How Does Insurance
Play Into the Future of Resiliency?
"One of the most promising new developments to maximize the value of nature is the possibility of putting an insurance policy on habitats like reefs and beaches—to protect the health and protective services of these ecosystems and ensure they are restored after extreme storms hit. By combining insurance and new science, we can protect and improving the health of reefs and beaches so they can continue to protect us."
The Nature Conservancy states that 97% of coastal protection comes from healthy Coral Reefs. An estimated 840 million people around the world live with the risk of coastal flooding, and for coastal communities, the health of their economies is directly related to the health of their coastal ecosystems.Nature, including coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, sand dunes and healthy beaches, provides the first lines of defense to slow waves, reduce flooding and protect coastal people and property. Although seawalls, breakwaters and sand bags often come to mind as traditional disaster preparedness tools, these are not the only options—sometimes they aren’t even the best options. For example, a healthy coral reef can reduce 97 percent of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore, and just 100 meters of mangroves can reduce wave height by 66 percent.
“If you have waterfront property or infrastructure that has previously been sheltered from the impacts of extreme waves, this is worrying news” said Mitchell Harley, lead author and a senior research associate at UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory(WRL). “What this study confirms, is that simply by changing direction, storms can be many times more devastating. And that’s what we’re facing in many locations as the climate continues to change.”
Ian Turner, director of WRL and a co-author, said sea level rise was no longer the only factor at play when preparing for the impact of climate change on waterfront areas. “Shifts in storm patterns and wave direction will also have major consequences because they distort and amplify the natural variability of coastal patterns.”
Economists, engineers, insurers and conservationists are now collaborating on new science, models and strategies to evaluate and leverage the protective services of this natural infrastructure, including coral reefs and beaches, and to make sure they can be restored after a damaging storm.
The world’s most extensive study of a major storm front striking the coast has revealed a previously unrecognized danger from climate change: as storm patterns fluctuate, waterfront areas once thought safe are likely to be hammered and damaged as never before. It is the damaging power of wave energy – and the disruption of long-established storm patterns due to climate change – that present a new danger. The June 2016 ‘superstorm’ that devastated Australia’s east coast was only moderately intense, equivalent to a 1-in-5 year event: however, it did hit from the highly unusual easterly direction.“And that’s what’s really worrying,” said Turner. “The damage we saw from a moderately intense storm last year is a harbinger of what’s to come,” said Turner. “Climate change is not only raising the oceans and threatening foreshores but making our coastlines much more vulnerable as the direction of incoming storms change.“We need to be prepared,” he added. “Not just for the fact that what we consider as ‘king tides’ will be the norm within decades, but that the storms that strike the coast will come from unexpected directions, damaging coastal areas and infrastructure once thought safe from storm damage.”Previous studies have estimated that sea level rise from climate change – of between 40 cm and 1 meter over the next century – could put $226 billion of infrastructure at risk in Australia alone. This includes road and rail, commercial and residential buildings and even light industrial buildings. But also threatened are 75 hospitals and health centers, 258 police, fire and ambulance stations, five power stations and 41 waste disposal facilities.“When it comes to severe weather, a lot of the attention is paid to tropical storms like cyclones and hurricanes,” said Harley. “But this data highlights the amount of coastal damage that can occur with east-coast lows in Australia. Despite creating near hurricane-force winds, intense rain and large ocean waves of up to 9 meters, they are less worrisome to many people.”
The study, led by engineers at University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, was published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Scientific Reports. See entire study below link:
The Nature Conservancy entire story below link: