Global warming fears hit home on North Coast
By MARY MANN firstname.lastname@example.org GLOBAL warming has hit home on the North Coast for the first time.
The Federal Government has announced that local councils along the coastline must begin to plan for the%expected rise in sea levels in the next few years and has allocated $2 million to help them begin the planning process.
It is estimated that the sea will rise by at least one metre in the next 100 years, claiming about 100 metres of the shoreline.
It would see the destruction of multi-million- dollar coastal real estate at places like Belongil and Lennox Head, more frequent severe floods, and land become swampy in low-lying places like Ballina.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts the global sea level will rise by between 18 and 59cm by 2100.
But Dr Graham Jones, director of the Centre for Regional Climate Change Studies at Southern Cross University, said those predictions were ‘quite conservative’.
Dr Jones said the latest information indicated the sea could rise by at least one metre by 2100. “Some scientists say they wouldn’t be surprised if it rose by up to five metres,” Dr Jones said.
He said Belongil Beach at Byron Bay was likely to be one of the first places dramatically affected.
“The people who live there are a bit vulnerable,” Dr Jones said.
“They’re running out of beach. Over the long term, the spit and houses along Belongil would be destroyed.”
Dr Peter Cowell, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, said hundreds of thousands of homes faced possible inundation resulting from climate change over the next 20 to 30 years.
He said Byron Bay and Ballina were areas expected to be among the hardest hit, as well as Cairns in north Queensland, Wamberal on the NSW Central Coast and Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches.
“With places like Belongil, it’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’,” he said.
“Existing hazards which happen occasionally will start to happen more often. As the sea level rises nuisance floods will happen so often they’ll create dysfunction in the community.
“But it’s not as if this can’t be dealt with, it just has to be planned for.”
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said the council had agreed to take into account the impact of climate change in its strategic planning.
“It’s about trying to save future generations, and planning in a way to protect people and their property,” she said.
Ballina Shire Council’s civil services group manager John Truman said the council had already factored climate change into its planning. He said the council would urge the government to provide more specific information about rising sea levels on the East Coast, which were expected to be greater than the global average.