IF YOU happen to be the sort of settled scientist who frets very loudly about climate change and demands your warnings be heeded -- someone like Tim Flannery, for instance -- there must be no small satisfaction when authorities do as they are bid. Coping with rising sea levels, for example, about which Flannery not long ago had this to say:: "Anyone with a coastal view from their bedroom window, or their kitchen window, or whatever, is likely to lose their house as a result of that change, so anywhere, any coastal cities, coastal areas, are in grave danger."
The sceptics scoffed, as sceptics do, but Hornsby Council was paying close attention, so much so that in 2009 it commissioned a voluminous and extensively footnoted consultant’s report on how best to protect ratepayers as bushfires roar, temperatures soar and the Hawkesbury’s estuarine banks slip beneath the surging tides. As the document explains it -- and with bold type for emphasis, no less -- the science is etched in stone:
Council has already undertaken measures to mitigate climate change impacts by increasing the energy efficiency of Council property .... Adaptation is the next logical step for Council to take in response to climate change. The purpose of adaptation is to prepare Council and the community for the inevitable changes to the climate that are at this stage unavoidable.
The report features a detailed map (fig. 10.1) showing where the waters will reach, and it is bad news on several fronts for Wiseman’s Ferry and a number of other locations, all marked with the cartographer’s red tide of doom.
Residents in those areas will just have to adjust. It’s unavoidable, because the report also announces the council’s intention to spend more money on more reports laying out the specific actions it intends to undertake. So if you are in Wiseman’s Ferry, building restrictions of the sort favoured by Byron Bay and Wellington Shire Council in Victoria could well be part of both your future and your property values. And if things follow the Victorian example, those values could suffer. But what can a ratepayer do? The planet is drowning and the science iron-tight, right? right?
Well, yes and no, because the sybil of the seashore, who just happens to be a Hornsby ratepayer and resident of a low-lying waterfront block, has amended his views on that “grave danger”. As Flannery explained to today’s Weekend Australian, “There is no chance of it being inundated, short of a collapse of the Greenland Ice Shelf."
The report goes on to note that Flannery refuses to specify where he lives lest enemies drop by and do him a violence. And perhaps he is right, or half-right.
Given how much Hornsby Council has spent responding to his initial warning and the possibility of bylaws demanding lifeboat davits on front porches, the person most likely to punch him in the nose would be a fellow ratepayer.