ACTION NEEDED: Participants in last Saturday’s 350 Climate Fair in Ballina form the number 350, representing the push to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.
ACTION NEEDED: Participants in last Saturday’s 350 Climate Fair in Ballina form the number 350, representing the push to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.

Storm, tides boost sea levels

IT’S not a matter of if sea levels are going to rise, but it’s a matter of how communities are going to deal with it, according to Professor Rodger Tomlinson.

The Professor in Coastal Management from Griffith University was speaking at last Saturday’s 350 Climate Fair held in Ballina as part of a global push at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million from the current levels of about 390ppm.

Prof Tomlinson said the predicted level of sea rise of 0.9m in 100 years for the local area was going to be exacerbated by tides and more regular storm surges – which, combined, could add another three to four metres on to the median sea level.

“What’s does that mean to you living in this beautiful part of the world? Some parts of our community will be permanently inundated,” he told the small gathering at the event.

And he noted that the water in the inundated areas would be saltwater, which affects things like building   foundations, pipes, fresh groundwater supplies and the eco-system.

He said the coastline would recede by as much as 100m to 150m for every metre the sea rises.

He said the periods of extremes the region has been hit with over the years – the eight floods in the Richmond River in 1864, the storm surge which flooded Ballina in the 1890s, the 1-in-100 year 1954 storm, the 1-in-60 year 1974 storm and the 1-in-20 year May storms of this year – could be used as a lesson on how to deal with future sea level rises.

“But we haven’t learnt in terms of our planning,” he said. “We like to think of the world being static, but unfortunately it’s not.”

He spoke of Climate Change Mitigation and said other parts of the world already live with regular variability in seas.

Dutch people have built dykes so they can live below the level of the sea, people in Venice live with inundation, and others in the Asian and South Pacific regions accept death and destruction brought on by storm surges.

“Is that a solution?” he asked.

He said it was possible to build sea walls and tidal barrages to stop expected levels of sea rise entering Ballina.

“Do something locally to reduce carbon emissions to put this under control,” he said.

The fair was part-organised by the Ballina Climate Action Network as part of the International Day of Climate Action.

Meanwhile, a community plantathon will be held on October 31 at Angels Beach from 9am to midday. The aim is to plant 350 coastal wattles and other trees into dunes just south of the Angels Beach overpass.

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