Tweed faces scary future

HOTTER weather, rising tides, more floods, less water to drink, more expensive food and a greater number of severe bushfires and storms.

This is the bleak future predicted for the Tweed and Richmond when climate change takes hold, according to a report released this week by a leading international environmental group.

In the next 60 years temperatures on the Tweed are expected to soar by at least 5.6 degrees Celsius, according to the report by the World Wilderness Foundation.

And there will be more hot periods, with an additional one to two more days every summer when the mercury reaches a scorching 35 degrees.

It will be the Tweed's large ageing population who will suffer most with the hotter days, with the report predicting a quadrupling of the number of elderly people who die from heat-related illness before 2100.

With about 40 per cent of the Tweed's population currently above the age of 55, this issue could have huge implications for the way health services are delivered to our ageing population.

More droughts will be the result of climate change, and within the next 20 years there will be an extra two to four droughts in every 10-year period. By 2070 that number is expected to blow out by an additional one to nine extended dry periods.

The report, based on independent research by the WWF and the CSIRO, also predicts a dramatic rise in sea levels for the Tweed.

"Sea levels along the coast are expected to rise by up to 40cm above 1990 levels by 2050 and by 90cm by 2100," the report says.

"With each one-centimetre rise resulting in one metre of erosion on low-lying beaches."

Although this news could be a bad omen for the millions of dollars of development built and planned on the Tweed's coastal areas, the report also indicates that most coastal infrastructure in NSW was built to cope with a 50cm rise in sea levels.

Sea-level rises could, coupled with an anticipated drop in annual rainfall and greater periods of drought, have a dramatic effect on the Tweed and Northern Rivers' water supply and the quality of water in the catchment.

But the CSIRO report Climate Change in the Northern Rivers indicates the area's water supplies, such as the Tweed's Clarrie Hall Dam, have historically weathered dry spells without great affect to capacity.

Higher temperatures, however, could increase water evaporation rates by 40 per cent by 2070.

Severe storms of extreme waves and winds are expected to hammer the Tweed, with an increased threat of localised flooding, especially in built-up areas.

"The coastline along Richmond will be subject to more storm surges, according to the climate model, which could lead to dramatic increases in erosion -- in excess of 100 metres on low-gradient shorelines during severe storms," the report said.

All of these factors could combine to adversely affect local agriculture, with greater increases to food prices expected to be the result of climate change.

News that bushfires are expected to double in number and increase in intensity is not new for Rural Fire Service (RFS) community safety officer Laurence McCoy.

Inspector McCoy agreed with the CSIRO report that these larger fires would be harder to fight and could lead to greater property loss, but he said the RFS had been preparing for the adverse effects of climate change for some time.

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