In the 20 years I have lived in Byron Shire, the sea level has risen around six centimetres, about the length of an egg, and this rate of rise is conservatively expected to double over the coming decades. Scientists predict a rise of around 60 centimetres by the end of this century. This means Byron’s surrounding melaleuca wetlands, including the proposed West Byron development, will become tidal mangrove swamps with king tides regularly inundating Byron CBD.
But there is an exponential component to climate change. The poles are heating much faster than the tropics, thawing permafrost and unlocking vast amounts of frozen methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. The North Pole and Greenland icecaps are melting before our eyes, and a growing body of scientists believe sea level by the end of this century may rise as much as two metres.
This means Ewingsdale will become the new foreshore, Cape Byron will be an island, Byron CBD, Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby will all be inundated by the sea, and the entire Brunswick Valley will be a saltwater estuary. There are children alive today who may be around to see this happen. And it won’t end there, with as much as a 20-metre rise over the coming millennia.
We can forever argue the pros and cons of the proposed West Byron development, but like a rising tide, global warming won’t listen. People buying into the estate might reconsider when they realise they can’t even bequeath their properties to their grandchildren.
The state of Victoria has a climate change development plan (CCCAC) which restricts development on regions predicted to be inundated by the rising sea level (see http://bit.ly/coastalpdf). Byron, and the whole world, needs such a plan. These aren’t some whacko doomsday predictions. This is current science, which always tends to err on the conservative side.
Michael Balson, Upper Wilsons Creek