One of the consequences of climate change and rising global temperatures is that sea levels around the world are rising. At the same time, some parts of the coast are subsiding. Average global sea level has been rising over recent decades at a rate of approximately 3.4 millimetres per year.
Though the effects of this sea level rise along the coast are gradual, they are highly significant over the long term. Increases in sea level cause greater erosion of dunes and loss of beaches, increasing shoreline erosion at many locations.
Sea level rise will also be likely to change the angle at which waves strike the shore, leading to changes in rates of littoral sand drift and consequently, changes in the locations at which beaches build up or erode.
Sea level rise will also affect both the size of areas flooded and increase the frequency of widespread flooding. This will not only have impacts on infrastructure and development, but also the location and species mix of coastal ecosystems and habitats.
Under natural conditions, as the sea level rises, species would naturally start to retreat landward to more suitable conditions. Unfortunately, in some locations development would prevent this natural retreat and changes in species composition or at worst, species or habitat loss may start to occur.
Development will also be at risk due to changes in sea level. The need to allow for sea level rise in coastal developments has been acknowledged worldwide.