Creeping up every year: king tide, Bay Street Tempe, 3 January 2014

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Nick B. Possum: Private Eye

I was sitting in the Brushtail Cafe with a cider, trying to keep cool, when Joadja came back from photographing the king tide down at Cooks River for Green Cross’s Witness King Tides project.

She loaded her pics onto the laptop and we all crowded around to have a look.

“Check this: a couple of small low-lying streets ninety metres from Tempe Basin were pretty badly flooded,” Joadja said, clicking through the album.

“Far out. That looks like the pics from Ballina and Narooma I saw on TV. Where’s Tempe Basin again?”, asked old Stan, the retired colonel.

“You know, it’s that little boat harbour on the left of the Princes Highway as you’re driving south, just before the Cooks River Bridge.”

“Where you turn off for Tempe Reserve?”

“That’s it. That’s Holbeach Avenue and that got flooded too. It was on the ABC news, but they missed the main story because the worst affected street was nearby Bay Street.”

Jo clicked through a few more pics. “The scary thing is, you can be quite a way back from the coast and even from the edge of the water and the effect is insidious. I mean, Tempe Basin is almost 12 kilometres from the entrance to Botany Bay and it’s three kilometres from where Cooks River enters Botany Bay, and the stormwater drain at the corner of Old and Bay streets is about 90 metres from Tempe Basin. But there was the tide, surging up into the street through the drain. Right at high tide it must have been 30 centimetres deep at the corner. And further upstream, on Bayview Avenue, near Unwin’s Bridge, it came halfway across the road.”

“Of course, the global warming denialist idiots will say ‘king tides aren’t caused by global warming. It’s all about an alignment of the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon’ – which is true, but undeniably, every year, king tides are getting higher because sea levels are rising,” said Old Possum, taking another sip of pear cider.

“The thing is,” Jo continued, “the twice-yearly king tide events are giving us a glimpse of the near future of global warming. We can see the places and bits of infrastructure that are going to have to be abandoned before too many years have passed, or at least artificially raised. Along the coast and up rivers and around bays and lagoons, when you add it all up, that means some big swathes of land we depend on – lots of holiday villages, parks, picnic areas, camping grounds, caravan parks and playing fields, not to mention houses, roads, rail lines, services, and industrial infrastructure.

“Just along the Cooks River, if the tide was just a few centimetres higher it would have gone right over Cahill Park and further upstream, lots of Steel Park would have been inundated. It’s already flowing over part of the cricket field at Gough Whitlam Park.

“I’ll tell you what’s also scary: inevitably, one of these days, a king tide is going to coincide with an offshore storm surge and heavy rain in the river catchment, and then some pretty big areas will be flooded.”

“Geez, I dunno,” I said. “80 per cent of our population lives along the coast, and still we keep strip mining the landscape and exporting coal, which accounts for about a third of global greenhouse emissions. Go and look at what they’re doing to the Hunter Valley. It’s ghastly landscape destruction on a vast scale. Newcastle is already the world’s biggest coal port and a major source of global greenhouse pollution.

“We should be scaling back production every year from now on, because Nature returns each of our coal ships as a fire bomb on our forests and farms. But such is the irresponsible greed of our governments and the bastards who profit from coal, that instead of scaling it back, we’re stepping up production, which will keep coal cheap and therefore there’ll be no price signals moving the world away from coal. It’s a cycle of madness.”

Check out the Witness King Tides website: www.witnesskingtides.org

  • ram

    Wait till the West Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS) slides into the ocean! It is already unstable and starting to break up. When it breaks through to the sea it will also float the ice cap off of Greenland. So one day, probably within most readers lifetime, the tide will come in, and come in, and come in …, until the sea levels are 5 to 7 meters higher than they are now.