Addressing climate change in ports



Greg Fisk, national practice leader (environment), BMT WBM Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


A recent report highlighted that 86 percent of respondents agreed that the port community needs to better understand how to address climate change risk issues. [Becker A, Inoue S, Fischer M, Schwegler B (2010) Climate Change impacts on international seaports: knowledge, perceptions and planning efforts among port administrators.] However, this awareness and understanding can be difficult and costly to obtain, unless the port has participated in a local or regional climate change vulnerability assessment or, has had to consider future climate change as part of proposed expansion plans. The simple fact that many impacts are not yet readily visible or evident at a local scale is also diminishing the lack of urgency to respond.

Greg Fisk, national practice leader, environment section at BMT WBM, a subsidiary of BMT Group, believes the key to effective adaptation is through ports starting to consider and plan for climate change issues and vulnerabilities sooner rather than later before significant impacts (and the costs to rectify them) occur. However, climate change adaptation is a complex issue and even the most proactive organisations struggle with the uncertainty posed by future climate change and the development and timing of appropriate actions. Greg highlights a pragmatic and cost effective solution that can be implemented, starting with the identification of key vulnerabilities, incorporation of climate change into long term decision making and setting trigger points for future action that can be monitored over time.


While ports are the cornerstone of international trade and globalisation, they are also increasingly at risk of climate change threats such as rising sea levels, intense storms including hurricanes and cyclones and higher temperatures. Adapting to changes in water levels is constrained by not only a lack of appropriate or endorsed engineering standards for maritime infrastructure, but also uncertainty in the rate of sea level rise and

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