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Coasts in crisis

Coastal populations around the world have exploded in recent decades but our enthusiasm for living by the sea coincides with a projected rise in risk to the coastal environment including extreme weather events, sea level rise, and the impact of human activities.

Coastal populations around the world have exploded in recent decades but our enthusiasm for living by the sea coincides with a projected rise in risk to the coastal environment including extreme weather events, sea level rise, and the impact of human activities.

The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Engineering is hosting a public lecture on the looming coastal crisis by Dr Steven Hughes, a senior research scientist at Colorado State University, who is visiting New Zealand.

Dr Hughes is a former United States Army Corps of Engineers coastal and hydraulics engineer and one of the scientists charged with investigating the failure of the levees in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“The population rise in coastal mega-cities, cities like Los Angeles or Manila, will only continue to increase at a staggering pace. For some cities such as Auckland, projections are for a 50% increase in population by 2043,” he says.

“But we didn’t plan our cities with this kind of growth in mind and we certainly didn’t plan them to face increasing environmental threats including more extreme weather events and sea level rise associated with climate change.”

While more than 130 global port cities are at risk from coastal hazards such as storm surge and land subsidence, some of the solutions being offered are unlikely to be popular.

“We need to increase our efforts in assessing risk and attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow sea level rise, and potentially we may need to retreat from some areas of the coast, albeit in a managed way.

“In some of the most at-risk areas, managed retreat might be our only option no matter how unpopular it might be.”

Dr Hughes is being hosted in New Zealand as a specialist in support of a Fulbright grant awarded to the University of Auckland by Fulbright New Zealand.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Lecture details: 5-6pm, Thursday May 3 in Owen G Glenn Building (Business School) 12 Grafton Rd, Case Room 2, B260.057

ends

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