Icecaps and glaciers might seem a long way from north coast NSW. But global warming is going into warming the oceans, which makes the water expand and rise even before we start accounting for icecaps and glaciers. Sea levels rose by around 200mm last century and accelerating.
Ozcoasts has been publishing maps of impacts for major parts of the Australian coast.
Unfortunately we don’t yet have OzCoasts maps for some areas, including the NSW coast north from the Hunter to the Queensland border, to verify whether some coastal grounds would be within or beyond the reach of a sea level rise such as 1.1 metres, which has been modelled by OzCoasts for other areas.
In particular, expert information is needed on risks to grounds which at first sight may seem relatively safe because they are a few metres above current average sea levels, but which are adjacent to rivers and near the coast, and so may be exposed to increased flood risks from tides and from floodwaters being less able to escape to sea with higher high tides.
Here are some of the grounds where we could be looking at impacts from climate change this century:
- Andrews Park, Wauchope appears on Google Earth at 7 metres above current average sea level - but only 2 metres above the adjacent Hastings River, which has tides of nearly 2 metres at Wauchope
- Eden Street, Kempsey has several pitches marked on Google Earth at 4-5 metres above current average sea level, but sea level rise could make flooding from the nearby Macleay River, which has tides of over 1.5 metres, more frequent
- Several pitches at Stuart Park, Riverside, Port Macquarie appear on Google Earth at 2 metres above current average sea level and are adjacent to the Hastings River.
- Both the synthetic and turf wicket at Vince Inmon Fields at Laurieton appear on Google Earth at 2 metres above current average sea level and are adjacent to the Camden Haven River.
- The Donnelly Welsh playing fields at Macksville show on Google Earth at 2 metres above current average sea level. These fields of course are already subject to flooding from the nearby Nambucca River, but sea level rise would be expected to make flooding more frequent and severe
- The turf pitch at Harwood shows on Google Earth at 2 metres above current average sea level. Sea level rise would be expected to make flooding from the nearby Clarence River more frequent and severe
- Wherrett Park, Maclean shows on Google Earth at 2 metres above current average sea level. Sea level rise would be expected to make flooding from the nearby Clarence River more frequent and severe.
- The pitches at Elizabeth St Murwillumbah are shown on Google Earth at around 5 metres above current average sea level – but don’t have much height at all above the adjacent Tweed River. Tides on the Tweed River at Murwillumbah are over 1.5 metres and sea level rise would mean these start from a higher base. There have been past events at Murwillumbah (like in 2012) where heavy rain has combined with king tides to see major flooding. Sea level rise would make these events more severe and frequent too
- Some of Saunders Park at Ballina is only 3 metres above current average sea level even though there are several rows of houses (on slightly higher ground) between the park and the sea.
- Some of the fields at the South Tweed Heads Football Club are shown on Google Earth as between just 2 and 3 metres above current average sea level.
How are local political representatives responding?
- Up in Richmond, Labor’s Justine Elliott takes climate change seriously as an issue for our economy and our way of life, and in particular for the environment of the north coast.
- MP for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker hasn’t spoken up clearly about climate science. He certainly didn’t speak up when he was Shadow Minister for Sport on threats to Australian sport from climate change. What is clear, is that he voted with Tony Abbott to reverse action on climate change including voting for abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and its work such as funding renewable energy projects in rural Australia.
- You’d expect the new MP for Lyne, David Gillespie, to have respect for science, as someone who’s worked in public and private practice as a physician. But he couldn’t even say what the National Party’s climate policy was when asked publicly in 2012. He backed publicly, and voted for, the abolition of the Climate Change Commission, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (which actually makes money for the budget, contrary to what Dr Gillespie seemed to be trying to say in his public statements). His sole mention of the word “climate” in Parliament so far seems to be when he mentioned that the region has a temperate climate! Well thanks for that expert diagnosis, Doctor. Anything about the effects of climate change on health and on a healthy lifestyle?
- New MP for Page, Kevin Hogan, has acknowledged in Parliament that a changing climate is one of the challenges faced by Australian farmers. But in his maiden speech he also spoke of pricing carbon pollution as something that “was never going to change the climate”. He didn’t explain why emissions from firms covered by carbon pricing have reduced by 7% in the first year, or why we don’t need an independent Climate Change Authority or a Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or why a “Direct Action” policy with no expert support whatsoever should be followed instead.
Let's not be timed out on climate action