Image for Climate change puts UTAS plans at risk

The University of Tasmania’s proposed $200 million northern campus in Launceston ( TT: UTAS Launceston move to Inveresk a ‘great deception’ ) could be put in doubt by new data on climate-induced sea level rises.

The university plans to move its northern campus, now at Newnham, to inner-city sites spanning the North Esk River at Inveresk, next to the Launceston CBD.

But global maps issued by the independent US-based Climate Central organisation ( Here ), incorporating the most recent data from scientists around the world, show the site will be in danger of frequent or permanent flooding even under the most benign of current climate-change predictions.

The new maps show likely sea levels as a result of two-degree and four-degree increases in average temperatures.

The forthcoming climate policy summit in Paris is likely to aim for a change no greater than two degrees. But this will require major, immediate efforts by all governments. And all amelioration measures carry an economic cost.

According to the organisation’s website, ‘Climate Central surveys and conducts scientific research on climate change and informs the public of key findings ... Climate Central is not an advocacy organisation. We do not lobby, and we do not support any specific legislation, policy or bill.’

The proposed UTAS northern campus will cover a large site, mostly on the north side of the North Esk River as far as the Aurora Stadium, as well as another site on the city side on the site of the Willis Street car park. Major buildings on the two sites will be joined by a footbridge.

There will be a large underground car park.

Under the two-degree scenario, much of the area covered by the new buildings will be below the new sea level. So too will the city’s seaport and most of the suburb of Inveresk. If temperatures rise by four degrees the whole of the university site, and much of Launceston’s north and east, would be permanently under water.

Low-lying areas along the tidal North Esk River are already protected by levee banks. These have been newly ‒ and expensively ‒ upgraded but little thought appears to have been given to global sea levels. The two most recent annual reports of the Launceston Flood Authority both fail to mention either ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’.

The river is tidal as far as St Leonards, with daily tides at Launceston ranging from about one to about three metres. The greatest threat of higher sea levels will be from tidal surges, when very high tides, perhaps driven by storm and wind, coincide with high river flows.

Elsewhere in the state, Hobart is likely to escape comparatively lightly ‒ so long as temperatures rise by no more than two degrees. If they reach four degrees much of the port area, including the new Macquarie Point development, will be permanently under water.

So would the Hobart Airport. Even under the more benign two-degree scenario the runway would be below sea level and under probable threat from major storm surges.

Temperatures rising by four degrees would put most of the airport permanently under water.

With two degrees, most of Kingston Beach would disappear.

Ulverstone would be badly affected by two degrees; four degrees would put most of the city under water.

The industrial Wivenhoe area at Burnie and the city’s showgrounds would also be threatened.

Major roads including the Bass and Tasman Highways and the South Arm road would be cut.