HUNDREDS of thousands of people living in and around the Torres Strait may have to be relocated if the causes of climate change are not addressed, Professor Ross Garnaut says.
Prof Garnaut, who drafted the Australian government’s climate change review, said climate change threatened the strait and lowlands in Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya.
Projections of a rise in sea levels of 26cm to 79cm were possible, he said, citing the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“As we have seen from the smaller increases of the late 20th century, a rise of sea level by half a metre would have a large effect,” Prof Garnaut said in the 2009 Eddie Koiki Mabo Lecture at James Cook University in Townsville yesterday.
“A warmer climate would increase the intensity of storm events, the king tides and storms would come from a higher base, and the storm surges would be stronger.”
All of this would happen with the melting of land ice, which could raise sea levels by 4m or more.
“Fifty centimetres of sea level rise will make life vulnerable to the king tides and the storm surges in the places where most of the 8,000 or so Torres Strait people now live,” Prof Garnaut said.
“The number of people affected across the waters in the mainland
of New Guinea, in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, would in each case be many times larger.
“A metre of sea level rise would be much worse.
“The relevant point is made strongly enough without reflecting upon 4m.
“The more being possibilities from a failure of effective global mitigation are likely to require the relocation a long way from their homes of hundreds of thousands living in and adjacent to the Torres Strait.” – AAP