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The decision by the NSW government to remove the compulsory application of sea level rise benchmarks by coastal councils is outlined in Minister Hartcher’s statement below. With the accompanying assessment by the NSW Chief Scientist (see link), and the likelihood that Victoria and Queensland will follow suit, this is an important development in the debate in Australia on dangerous global warming.

The benchmarks, which were set by the previous NSW Labor government, included a projected benchmark of a 90cm sea level increase by 2100, which was considerably higher even than the IPCC’s projection of 59cm. It was also considerably above the trend increase, which implied a rise of around 20-25cm by 2100.

The Minister’s statement indicates that the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer “has identified uncertainty in the projected rate of future sea level rise given that the scientific knowledge in the field was continually evolving”. As far as I am aware, the previous government made no reference to the Chief Scientist having any such “uncertainty”.

The assessment by the Chief Scientist can be found from the link set out at the end of the statement. His letter to the Minister includes the following statement:

“ In considering the science behind sea level rise benchmarks, the one constant that emerges is change. The way the science has been used to determine benchmarks is adequate, given the current level of knowledge. However, for some years to come there will be more and better models for predicting sea level rise which will be informed by more and better data enabled by rapid advances in sensing, positioning, computational and imaging technologies.” This statement, and what follows in the 32 page document, clearly imply that there is much more research to be undertaken on assessing likely sea level changes. This runs counter to the argument advanced by warmists that there is a scientific consensus and is of particular interest given that outside advice provided to the NSW Chief Scientist in preparing the assessment included from well known warmists such as Church (CSIRO) and England (UNSW).

Indeed, the assessment includes a recommendation that “work should begin on establishing the appropriate framework for deriving updated sea level projections for NSW coastal locations and then refining these projections as yet further model out puts become available”. One might be excused for asking how the previous projections were made if there was no “appropriate framework”! One potential problem with having these scientists establish such a framework is that they emphasise the need to develop better models. If those models are based on those used by the IPCC they will include incorrect assumptions about likely future warming.

Interestingly also is the comment in the assessment that regional variations from the global average should be expected to be about plus or minus 0.15 of a metre. However no explanation is given for why the previous NSW projection to 2100 (90cm) differed by much more than 0.15m from the IPCC global average projection of 59cm.

The danger of flooding from sea level rises is an important part of the argument for taking action to prevent or limit global warming. Warmists and environmental journalists pay considerable attention to changes in ice levels in the Arctic and they have claimed these have recently reached historically low levels. But no mention is made of the facts that most Arctic ice is already in the sea (and will not add to sea levels if melted) and that there have been complete meltings of such ice in periods in the past when emissions of CO2 were very small.

Des Moore

Minister Hartcher's statement Saturday 8 September 2012


The NSW Government today announced significant changes to the way the NSW coast will be managed, giving more freedom to landowners to protect their properties from erosion and dropping Labor’s onerous statewide sea level rise planning benchmarks.

Special Minister of State, Chris Hartcher said the changes mean councils will have the freedom to consider local conditions when determining future hazards.

The first stage of the NSW Government’s comprehensive coastal reforms will:

Mr Hartcher said the changes strike the right balance between protecting property and managing the State’s vast coastline.

“The NSW Government has listened to the concerns of communities and councils about previous coastal erosion reforms and the uncertainties they caused for landholders,” Mr Hartcher said.

“The Ministerial Coastal Taskforce has carefully considered the best ways to empower coastal communities to take preventative measures before erosion occurs.

“Our changes will mean landowners can more easily place sandbags on their properties to reduce impacts of erosion from smaller storm events.

“Landowners in erosion prone areas need to be allowed to take sensible measures to protect their land from coastal erosion and not be tied up in red tape.

“We will also halve the maximum penalties for offences relating the inappropriate use of these works, which were excessive.”

Mr Hartcher said the heavy-handed application of Labor’s sea level rise planning benchmarks for 2050 and 2100 would go.

“There has been concern about the negative impacts on property values from these unclear section 149 certificate notations,” Mr Hartcher said.

“The NSW Government will remove the need for councils to use state-wide sea level rise projections.

“We will be assisting councils by providing information on future sea level rise relevant to their local area and by giving councils access to expert advice.

“It is critical that the information contained in the section 149 certificates and the underlying mapping is clear and accurate.”

The NSW Government will issue advice to all councils to guide the preparation and use of section 149 certificates. This will provide much needed certainty for local communities on how these certificates refer to future coastal erosion hazard.

“This will give councils more certainty as the Government continues its reform of coastal management in NSW,” Mr Hartcher said.

The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer has identified uncertainty in the projected rate of future sea level rise given that the scientific knowledge in the field was continually evolving.

Mr Hartcher said as an interim measure, all councils preparing coastal zone management plans will be given an extra 12 months to complete them and have suspended certification of any further plans.

The Coastal Ministerial Taskforce will continue to work with councils and communities on the second stage of reforms.

For Assessment of the science behind the NSW Government’s sea level rise planning benchmarks – see

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