Australian expert says sea levels to rise four metres

Australian expert says sea levels to rise four metres

Australian expert says sea levels to rise four metres

Updated 19 December 2011, 13:44 AEDT

An Australian climate change expert says the world's sea levels could rise by up to four meters this century.

The head of the climate change unit at the Australian National University and science adviser to the federal Government, Professor Will Steffen, says he believes the scientific community is underestimating the speed at which the climate is changing.

Rising sea levels from global warming are predicted to make some Pacific islands unlivable within the next decade, with Tuvalu expected to be underwater by 2050.

Professor Steffen says a record number of polar ice sheets across the northern shelf have disappeared in just 12 months.

"The evidence over the past 12 to 18 months suggests that we have underestimated how fast this aspect of the earth's system can change," he said.

Dr Jo Mummery, from the Department of Climate Change, told the delegation that if sea levels rose just one metre - exclusive pockets of the Gold Coast would be completely washed out.

She says if water enters a 200 metre buffer zone almost 559,000 residential buildings would be affected across the country.

"They will generally be impacts leading to damage of assets and loss of value".

Doctor Mummery says adapation policies need to start immediately.