Rising sea levels and warming oceans are putting Australian surf life-saving clubs under increasing pressure, creating dangerous surf conditions and hindering the ability of life-savers to provide supervision and safety to beachgoers.
Life-saving clubs provide a valuable community service, yet their coastal position renders them vulnerable to the effects of intensifying climate change.
Throughout my decade serving between the flags, I’ve seen our clubhouse used in a variety of ways. Our club is the heart of the community; a venue for disabled and multicultural sporting programs, shelter during wild weather and bushfires, and even home to roast nights on the deck.
It’s where I’ve spotted capsized kayaks from the tower, and treated serious injuries in the first-aid room. Every part of our club provides a service to the community.
We’re even remodeling our club house so it can better serve members and the public.
Yet changing wave and tidal patterns are already eroding the sand dunes in front of our club house. This is due to rising sea levels, driven by worsening climate change.
This creates an aquatic environment that is increasingly difficult to contend with, creating deeper troughs, shallower sandbars and faster-forming rips.
Climate change is also driving hotter summers, with the Bureau of Meteorology showing January’s average temperature to be 0.78 degrees above average. This creates scorching conditions more often, prompting many Australians to flock to the beach to seek relief.
Lifesavers and lifeguards are becoming busier with a greater number of beachgoers. Hotter temperatures are increasing the incidence rates of sunburn and heatstroke, and more people in the water will likely result in more aquatic rescues.