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Climate change threatens sports in Tasmania

Climate change isn't just an issue for warmer States to the north. One issue that will affect Australians in all States is that global warming is making sea levels rise. Some of the early impacts of this can be seen by looking at sporting fields, which are often in low lying areas on coasts and coastal rivers, because these areas are already subject to flood risks that prevent residential or commercial building.

Australian Government agency OzCoasts has published online maps of impacts from sea level rises including rises of 1.1 metres. We could face this or worse in our children's lifetimes if we don't see urgent action on climate change.

These maps don't yet cover Tasmania.

OzCoasts exclude storm surges from their analysis, and they haven't dealt yet with many tidal rivers, where of course higher sea levels means tides would start from a higher base, and river floodwaters would have more trouble escaping out to sea..

What would this mean for some Tasmanian sports grounds?

  • Kingston oval and the practice ground behind it are both just 3 metres above current average sea level. Kingston Beach golf course is even lower, at from 1 to 2 metres above current average sea level
  • Wentworth Park in Rosny Park shows as just 3 metres above current average sea level.
  • In New Town, the pitch at Cornelian Bay Sportsground appears to be 4 metres above current average sea level, and when and if OzCoasts does maps for Hobart they could find this ground just above inundation level for 1.1 metres sea level rise. But there isn’t much room in it: the boundary closest to the river appears closer to 3 metres above current average sea level. The most northern ground at Friends Sportsground is only 2 metres above current average sea level
  • The ground at Rosetta has a pitch at 4 metres above current average sea level, but much of the ground is even lower
  • In Launceston, the stadium and adjacent ground at Invermay are at around 5 metres above current average sea level, as is the NTC ground. It is important to remember, though, that even ordinary high tides on the river nearby are well over 2 metres. As Launceston City Council states,  "in Invermay the ground level is actually below the high tide, and if the flood levees were not in existence some parts of Invermay would be subject to water inundation twice a day with high tide".

Higher sea levels of course mean that tides would start from a higher base. This also means that flood levees like those at Launceston would be subject to more stress and thatflooding in the event of breach would be even more severe.

Sea level rises of more than 1.1 metres could happen if greenhouse gas emissions aren't cut hard and fast, and more sports grounds (as well as other features of Tasmanian life) would become threatened.

How are Tasmania's representatives in Federal Parliament responding?

Labor MPs, and some independent and minor party MPs, have stood up for climate action. Liberal MPs though are all falling into line behind Tony Abbott.

  • Andrew Nikolic, the new Liberal MP for Bass claims to accept that climate change will have significant consequences for Australia. But he argued in 2011 that climate change is so important that we shouldn’t act urgently. Really. He complained on his Facebook page about the clean energy package applying to synthetic refrigerant gases – even though even John Howard’s government recognised the need to take action about gases which are 1000 times as powerful as CO2 as greenhouse gases. And he’s retailed arguments that climate concern has displaced concern about the world’s poor – as if people in poverty around the world won’t feel the impacts of climate change early and harshly. He voted with Tony Abbott to put climate action into reverse including abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
  • Brett Whiteley, the new Liberal MP for Braddon, spoke nicely in his maiden speech about beautiful features of the areas covered by his electorate and the importance of rural produce. He didn’t say anything, though, on how  climate change might affect those things, although he did mention Tasmania’s wind farms (supported of course by the Renewable Energy Target, by clean energy research and financing, and by carbon pricing), and acknowledged that we live in a carbon sensitive world. What he had done already, though, was vote two weeks before with Tony Abbott to put climate action into reverse, including abolishing the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
  • Eric Hutchinson, new Liberal MP for Lyons tweeted (we can’t say argued) before the election that “locking up” old growth forests in World Heritage areas was somehow inconsistent with acting climate change. Huh?  He didn’t seem to mention climate change in his maiden speech as a threat to the environment and ways of life of the area, including cricket and other sports, although he did acknowledge Tasmania’s renewable energy resources. He didn’t explain how yet another inquiry from Tony Abbott into non-existent health issues with wind farms might affect use of some of those resources. And by the time he gave this speech, his action in voting with Tony Abbott to reverse climate action had already spoken louder than words.

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