IT is interesting that Shoalhaven City Council’s deputy mayor John Wells said this week that his organisation’s decision to adopt sea-level rise benchmarks went by without any fanfare.
Whether this is due to community indifference, or simply unknowing, we cannot be sure.
What is certain is that the sea-level rise issue has polarised the Eurobodalla community.
There are those who feel they are uninformed.
There are many who feel that while sea-level rise should be acknowledged, projected benchmarks are extreme.
There is also a section of the community which disputes that sea-level rise is happening at all.
Respected climate change researchers, including one of the world’s most respected experts on sea levels, Dr John Church, has long asserted, including to this very publication, that “sea-level rise is happening”.
It is “very clear the sea-level has been rising during the 20th century, faster than during the pre-industrial period,” he said, in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald.
No matter what they believe – if councillors do not accept the need to mitigate the impact of sea-level rise, they leave themselves open to litigation, which could prove costly to ratepayers down the track.
The Shoalhaven has bucked the sea-level rise benchmarks, recommended in a consultant’s report prepared for it and Eurobodalla Shire Council, for a more slightly more moderate policy.
But the city still anticipates a rise of 230mm by 2050.
Rather than adopting the worst-case scenario of 8.5 recommended concentration pathways, a majority of councillors resolved to base their planning on an RCP of 6, the second-worst-case scenario.
Councillors also agreed to review their benchmarks based on “real data” every seven years, with tidal gauges at HMAS Creswell and Ulladulla being included in the calculations, along with other NSW gauges.
This is a sensible way to go; reviewing actual local data is something not yet explored.