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A sinking continent?

A new report has parts of coastal Australia falling into the ocean, unless a little political will — and finance — is employed.

The report’s recommendations are cold comfort to homeowners who have spent millions buying prestigious beachside properties. They can look forward to little or no compensation for their losses. Protection for private property would only be considered as a long-term option and part of a wider management plan.

The report suggests private property owners “withdraw, relocate or abandon assets that are high risk."

Residents on the east coast of the United Kingdom, in Norfolk, are also feeling the sting of abandonment from local and national governments in some coastal areas, which have been deemed too costly to protect.

More than 15 million people live near the U.K. coastline, but Britain’s Environment Agency has already said that the area known as the Norfolk Broads will probably be left to be reclaimed by the sea.

The question being asked by residents in small coastal communities is this: Why are millions being spent on protecting big cities when small towns — many of which provide services and goods to neighboring towns — are deemed to costly to protect?

The Australian government report calls for a complete overhaul of building codes and planning for development. What this means is that in the future, developers will have to take into account the risks involved with climate change, including rising sea levels and more intense storm weather, before their developments are approved.

Further research will be undertaken to decide how to reduce uncertainty about the risks of rising sea levels in coastal areas.

The report also cited a huge environmental impact from rising sea levels. Coastal ecosystems likely to be most at risk include estuaries, coral reefs and beaches. In Sydney, councils are considering dredging sand from deep water areas and dumping it on eroded beaches to keep tourists and locals happy.

According to the Australia and New Zealand Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, beyond 2100 looks similarly bleak. Even if greenhouse gases are stabilized, predictions are that sea levels will continue to rise for hundreds of years due to the slow but continual warming of the deep oceans. Polar ice sheets will continue to react to climate change for the next several thousand years, even if the climate stabilizes.