IF your dream home is right down on the water, and you had listened to global warming guru Tim Flannery, you’d be more than a little worried.
Professor Flannery, appointed climate commissioner by the Gillard government, is never backward in coming forward.
A few years go, he spoke of sea-level rises of biblical proportions, where walls of water eight storeys high would subsume all beneath.
“Anyone with a coastal view from their bedroom window, or their kitchen window, or whatever, is likely to lose their house as a result of that change, so anywhere, any coastal cities, coastal areas, are in grave danger,” he said.
Since his most recent appointment, Professor Flannery has taken the cause around the country, warning in June of a clear and present danger.
“There are islands in the Torres Strait that are already being evacuated,” he said.
Given all that, many have been surprised to learn Professor Flannery has his own pile right on the water in the trendy tidal region of the lower Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney.
“Yes, it is waterfront and his would be one of the biggest on the point,” a neighbour, David, told Sydney radio jock Ray Hadley on 2GB last week. Almost immediately, the world of talkback and the blogosphere went wild.
In one chatroom, OS said doomsayers such as Professor Flannery “after having frightened the elderly to sell their seaside properties, are buying them”.
According to property searches, in 1997 Professor Flannery bought one house on the Hawkesbury with his wife, Alexandra Leigh Szalay, for $274,000.
Five years later — even as climate scientists, including Professor Flannery, claimed evidence of global warming and rising sea levels was even more solid — the couple bought the property next door, for $505,000.
For a week, Professor Flannery declined to speak to journalists about his properties, but he broke his silence yesterday to tell The Weekend Australian that while waterfront property generally was at risk, his little bit of paradise was secure for his lifetime.
“There is no chance of it being inundated, short of a collapse of the Greenland Ice Shelf,” Professor Flannery said.
While his place was, he admitted, “very close to the water”, the issue was how far it was above the water — something Professor Flannery would not reveal because, he said, it could help identify the location and subject him to a Norway-style attack by conservatives.
Professor Flannery also said his warnings of a 20m rise in sea levels should be put in perspective — that, he said, had to do with a range of factors and could occur once every 50,000 or 100,000 years.
The relevant time period, he said, was between now and
the end of this century when the best predictions were for a rise in sea levels based on thermal expansion of the oceans of 40-80cm, plus a less predictable additional rise from melting icecaps and glaciers.
Asked what Torres Strait islands were “being evacuated”, Professor Flannery conceded no evacuations were under way, but authorities on one island, Saibai, were looking at the possibility of acquiring land on a higher one.