Welcome to 2070 - it's not a pretty sight
By DOMINIC FEAIN
THE Northern Rivers landscape will be unrecognisable in 2070 if the extreme climate change predictions outlined in a new CSIRO report come true, according to a local ecologist.
"There will be no beaches as we know them now and no rainforests ... existing wetlands will be devastated and substantial areas of residential land will have to be abandoned," Mark Graham, from Wetland Care Australia, warned.
"In fact, the whole agricultural industry will have to be rethought sugar cane, tea trees, macadamias and coffee will struggle to survive in a region with drastically reduced rainfall and soaring temperatures not to mention rising coastal salinity.
"And (this report) doesn't consider other factors like the increasing global use of fossil fuels and deforestation we're doing everything wrong."
The report, released yesterday by the NSW Government's Department of Environment and Climate Change, predicts possible temperature increases on the Northern Rivers of up to 6.4 degrees Celsius, and potential rainfall reductions of 40 per cent by 2070 effectively giving our region the climate of Cairns or Port Moresby but without the rain. Byron Bay's rainfall would become similar to that of Casino.
The reduction in rainfall will be accompanied by an increase in extreme rainfall events, resulting in more flash flooding and erosion.
Coastal residents can expect to be hit hard by extreme winds and storm surges which, in conjunction with rising sea levels, could mean they're forced out of their homes if they live too close to the beach.
The report indicates it will be difficult to predict which areas will be worst affected, stating that the 'actual magnitude of beach erosion will vary significantly from one location to another'.
The report also suggests architects and planners need to consider climate change so that buildings will be able to withstand the increased thermal and structural pressures of the 21st Century.
Our personal health is also expected to be affected warmer winters are expected to reduce the incidence of cold-related illnesses, though the risk of heat-related illnesses will increase.
Water quality is expected to fall dramatically due to lower stream flows and higher temperatures, creating a more favourable environment for algal blooms. Rising sea levels and increased salt-water infiltration will also exacerbate groundwater salinity levels. This will particularly affect irrigated agriculture, including dairying and horticulture.
The predicted higher temperatures will also affect farm productivity. Increased heat stress on dairy cattle will reduce milk production and the reduced winter chilling of some fruit trees will result in lower yields and crop quality.
On a more positive note, the rising carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is likely to increase plant growth, though farmers will need to plan now for the climatic changes.
"The farmers of NSW have developed useful adaptation skills that stand them in good stead," the report noted.