Sunday, 10 July 2022

NEW SOUTH WALES, QUEENSLAND, VICTORIA: Australian East Coast Is Speaking Out

Climate Media Centre, Media Alert, 6 July 2022, excerpts:

With warnings still in place in parts of NSW, many of those in flood affected areas are starting to assess the damage…….

Emma Heyde, Councillor for C Ward, Hornsby Shire Council said:

Year-on-year floods, storms and fires is the new and frightening reality for people in Hornsby Shire. Damage to livelihoods and properties from climate chaos like this week’s floods could eventually affect up to a third of all residents.

For us in Hornsby Shire, climate hazards now mean thousands of homes are potentially uninsurable because of floods in winter and fires in summer. Thousands of Hornsby Shire residents have pleaded for action on the climate emergency since 2018.

The Hawkesbury floods are just another example of why it is so urgent that our local politicians not only send thoughts and prayers, but actually act on the root cause of these increasingly frequent disasters: climate heating.

Mark Greenhill, mayor, Blue Mountains City Council, can speak about his community’s experience in the current major weather event which has included major landslips, road failures and has stranded tourists and campers at Megalong Valley…..

The climate change-supercharged Black Summer fires, followed by massive rain events, followed by two years of Covid, followed now by two seasons of massive rain events, have seen nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of damage done to our council infrastructure, and a community and a local economy that’s been battered by natural disaster following natural disaster following natural disaster. In our city, strung along a ridgetop for 40km, we are experiencing the extremes of climate change at the front line.”

Gordon Bradbery, Lord Mayor, Wollongong City Council said:

The present devastating rain event on the east coast of Australia is just another in a series of catastrophes. The reality of the problem is not just climate change but an exhausted planet -- the depletion of and damage to natural systems. We have evolved faster in our expectations and rapacious exploitation of the natural environment - that is exceeding the planet’s ability to cope.

The east coast of Australia is an example of increasing population density in an increasingly hazardous location. From cyclones to bushfires, droughts to floods, and coastal erosion – we are putting more people into situations of greater risk.

Local government is expected to manage the implications of international behaviours and practices that are endangering and impacting local communities globally. We can all do our bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but unless there is an unified International response and a national commitment to dramatic lifestyle changes we are just tinkering at the edges.”

Amanda Lamont, Climate Action and Disaster Resilience Advisor at Zoos Victoria and Co-founder of the Australasian Women in Emergencies Network, can speak about conservation and climate action for wildlife, disaster resilience, emergency management, women in disasters and ways to improve risk.

Planning for emergencies is important but what happens when our plans run out? Eventually our plans and adaptations are not going to keep up with the disastrous impacts of climate change. The imperative to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has never been more urgent. And we all have a role to play.

Our precious environment, our communities and the emergency sector are right now bearing the brunt of extreme and overlapping disasters, which will have long-term effects. While we need to focus on supporting communities, we cannot ignore the threat of climate change and disasters on our natural environment, our diverse wildlife and the ecosystems on which we all depend.”

Ian Lowe AO, Environmental Scientist, is an expert in the effects of coastal inundation and climate change for low-lying areas. He can talk generally about the risk of extreme weather events to communities, and what the overall warming trend means for Australia.

The science has been telling us since the 1980s to expect ‘a more vigorous hydrodynamic cycle’, in other words because it’s warmer there is more evaporation, and because there’s more moisture in the atmosphere (and what goes up must come down!) the obvious increase of rising temperatures is more severe rainfall events. It’s pretty elementary physics.”

Dr Stefanie Pidcock, medical officer at Bega Hospital and member of Doctors for the Environment, can talk about the mental health impacts of extreme weather events on individuals and communities, as well as the additional stress these events put on regional hospitals.

The health impacts of extreme weather events such as the current flooding in NSW go well beyond the immediate and real dangers of injury and mosquito-borne diseases.

In Bega, many of my patients are still living with the trauma of their experiences of bushfires months and years later. With extreme weather events increasing in frequency and severity around the country, I'm concerned about the ongoing mental health of our communities.

I'm also concerned about the increased pressure that events like this put on our regional hospitals, which are already under stress. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and is harming the health and safety of Australians. We need to act now to reduce emissions this decade, while also preparing our hospitals and staff to treat and support communities experiencing extreme weather.”

Dr Michael Ferguson, sole owner of the Wauchope Veterinary Clinic, and a member of Vets for Climate Action, runs a mixed practice in Wauchope NSW where he looks after domestic pets and livestock from nearby farms.

For those with cattle around Windsor the difficulty is that beef producers have to move their cattle so quickly off flood plains. Logistically that can be quite difficult with road closures and trying to muster up cattle in wet conditions and finding somewhere to take them. This flooding event will have impacts on these producers even after flood waters go back down. I have seen producers in my area that had badly flooded paddocks and then the grasses that came back were not as good - it was too cold so there was a feed shortage and cattle were at risk of starving so producers had to source feed. That’s a lot of financial impact.

We also see a lot more lameness issues in cattle and horses because their feet are wet - also for cows mastitis goes right up as well.

Domestically we see the cats stay inside and not want to go to the toilet and get bladder issues after big rain events. They don’t want to go outside to wee and they get blocked up and have to come to the vet clinic.

The other thing is leptospirosis - a water-borne disease spread from animals’ urine into the water. There had been a few cases around Sydney and Newcastle and with these wet boggy conditions likely to be a lot more. We offer vaccines to pets for this and it’s part of the normal seven-in-one vaccine for cattle. It’s a disease that can pass to humans, it's quite nasty and serious and it’s quite bad for animals as well.”


On the subject of inappropriate development consent on the West Yamba flood storage area currently at the initial landfill stage:

Never thought I would see storm water replace river flood water as the main problem for us [Anon, on the subject of homes threatened by unmanaged groundwater runoff during heavy rain periods being redirected by presence of landfill in West Yamba, Valley Watch-sponsored community meeting] 9 July 2022]

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