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Time to act on climate change

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Brigid Veale
Published
18 October 2006
With Australia now experiencing its most severe drought on record, Southern Cross University has stepped up its research in the area of climate change.

The Centre for Assessing the Effects of Climate Change on Coastal Communities was set up last year to provide scientific information and advice on the potential effects of regional climate change on local communities and industries and to seek sustainable solutions.

Centre director Associate Professor Graham Jones said while there was a good understanding of global climate change, it was not known what impact this would have on regional and coastal communities around Australia.

“We can see the impact for the farmers and in places such as the wheat belt, but we don’t really know what it’s going to mean for northern NSW and south-east Queensland,” Professor Jones said.

“We need to be looking at the long-term implications. The rising sea level is going to have the biggest impact on the coastline but what long-term planning is being done?”

Professor Jones said the Centre, run through the School of Environmental Science and Management, would be working closely with industries in northern NSW and the south-east Queensland region to look at their particular areas of concern.

“There is a growing realisation around the world that the climate is changing and that we are now experiencing some of the hottest and driest conditions on record,” he said.

“There is an urgent need to integrate the latest and most up-to-date information on climate change with a view to obtaining a more predictive capacity of what this means for coastal communities around the world, and particularly Australia.”

Professor Jones said the Centre’s three main objectives were: assessing the effects of climate change on coastal erosion; assessing the effects of diminishing water resources in northern NSW and south-east Queensland; and to seek sustainable solutions and opportunities for a changing Australian climate.

“The community is now demanding solutions to what may prove to be our greatest environmental challenge,” he said.

Professor Jones has worked extensively in the Antarctic and in tropical Australia investigating the impact of climate change in those environments.

He has also been working closely with regional organisations and local government, particularly in relation to water resources.

One of the Centre’s activities has been a project with Rous Water to improve the water quality and minimise algal and weed growth in the Emigrant Creek Dam, which supplies water for Ballina and Lennox Head.

“The North Coast of NSW and south-east Queensland are rapidly developing areas with a burgeoning population. This development is placing pressure on infrastructure in the region, particularly water supply during a drying climate,” Professor Jones said.

“But, what long-term plans do we have for the region over the next 25 years, and are they being communicated to the community?

“There are no instant solutions for any of these problems. We need long-term planning and good collaboration between local government, industry, the community, and our universities. The Centre has been established to facilitate this interaction and come up with solutions for our region.”

The Centre can be contacted on 66203009 or email [email protected].

Photo: Associate Professor Graham Jones.