Climate Central's Surging Seas interactive map projects Ballina will be underwater if the global temperatures rise by 4 degrees.
Climate Central's Surging Seas interactive map projects Ballina will be underwater if the global temperatures rise by 4 degrees. Climate Central

Ballina could be underwater in the future, interactive map predicts

BALLINA and other coastal towns around Australia could be underwater if global temperatures increase by four degrees, according to an interactive map by a global climate change not-for-profit organisation.

Climate Central last week launched Surging Seas Seeing Choices - an online interactive map visualising how different countries may flood if sea levels rise to a certain height due to global warming.

Data from the organisation's report Global Mapping Choices published last November was used to develop the interactive tool.

Southern Cross University Professor of geography, Dr Bill Boyd, said the map painted a sound picture of how our area, and Australia in general, may flood if the sea level rises to a specific height.

"These maps are useful for giving people an impression of one important effect of a rising sea level," Dr Boyd said.

"I think it should be a good warning to people living in coastal areas that the coastal land is under a threat." 

Dr Boyd emphasised the data visualisation only estimates rising sea impacts with some projections forecasting extreme sea level increases of up to 30 metres in some places.

"It will be a very long time, centuries at least, before the eastern Australian coasts sees a rise a large as this. It is highly unlikely any of us will see such a rise," he said.

Although, Dr Boyd said it's possible we will see a rise of up to a metre in one generation.

He said such a rise will cause some coastal flooding and, in some places, the shoreline will move inland.

One major flaw identified by Dr Boyd is that the interactive doesn't account for earth processes such as the build-up or erosion of coastal sediments that influence how the land affected by rising seas.

Climate Central's vice president for sea level and climate impacts, Benjamin Strauss, told The Northern Star the map was created using a near-global evaluation dataset.

Mr Stauss said the use of the dataset meant the not-for-profit "did not collaborate with local climate experts anywhere to create our maps".

Dr Boyd said while the elevation data used was "state-of-the-art", he said the interactive failed to incorporate local geographical conditions.

For the Australian region, Dr Boyd said the maps were based on a simple model described as the "bathtub method", which assumes all land lower than a sea level will be flooded by the sea as it rises above the height of the land.

Creator of the Gasfield Free Community Strategy, Annie Kia came across the interactive maps on Twitter.

Ms Kia was "interested and shocked" by what the maps projected sea level rises along the coast of the Northern Rivers and abroad.

"I think maps like this are a helpful way for people to realise that what legacy we are leaving," Ms Kia said.

Ms Kia struggled to understand why all three tiers of government in Australia weren't prioritising climate change issues such as rising sea levels.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to listen to what they are say and understand that if we keep warming the planet and warming the ice caps, the seas are going to continue to rise as they have been doing," she said.

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