International Assessments of the Vulnerability of the Coastal Zone to Climate Change, Including an Australian Perspective
This review examines what global coastal vulnerability assessments say about Australia, and considers global, and in some cases national, assessments of vulnerability to climate change to evaluate the implications for the Australian coast, or to assess the applicability of particular approaches and methods to Australia. Climate change vulnerability assessment aims at assisting policymakers in adequately responding to the challenge of climate change by investigating how projected changes in the Earth's climate may affect natural systems and human activities. Generally studies consider, exposure or susceptibility of natural coastal systems, the effect on socio-economic systems (“impact assessment”), and/or how human actions may reduce adverse effects of climate change on those systems or activities (“adaptation assessment”, a measure of adaptive capacity). The framework for a climate change vulnerability assessment depends on the system under consideration, stressors, responses (effects), and actions (adaptation). It is important that each assessment is undertaken at the relevant spatial and temporal scales, and the results are often appropriate only at those scales. The reports and literature reviewed contain relatively little information directly on the Australian coast, but a range of techniques that have been adopted overseas is discussed. It is clear that there is no “off-the-shelf” methodology appropriate for the entire Australian coast, but several methods could be adapted for use in Australia. The unique nature of the Australian coast, however, and the innovative nature of several approaches adopted within Australia, suggests that it would be prudent to consider modifying techniques applied elsewhere or developing new tools to assess the vulnerability of the Australian coast to climate change. Development and application of the IPCC Common Methodology (CM) in the 1990s represented a milestone in the development of international coastal vulnerability assessments. CM has been a foundation on which the majority of subsequent overseas methodologies have been based. In Australia, the National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment Case Studies Project (NCVACSP) was undertaken during 1994-95, comprising 9 case studies (one study in each state, with two in each of Victoria and the Northern Territory) and several deficiencies with the CM approach were identified. The 9 site-specific case studies have not been upgraded to a national level survey in Australia.