'Willful ignorance': Flood-hit Australia urged to rethink climate change

By Michael Taylor

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"They call Australia 'disaster alley' because we've got a bit of everything," said Karl Mallon, CEO of Sydney-based Climate Valuation, which advises homeowners and buyers on climate and extreme weather risks.

There are a lot of uncomfortable truths for Australia in this article, but Mr Karl Mallon doesn't do the cause or his organization much good with his hyperbole, which looks to be calculated as much to help his business along as it is to the cause of combating climate change. "Disaster Alley", for example, is a term applied to the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, of which Australia is only a part.

Property buyers are given little information on flood risks, either by local government or banks and insurers, Mallon said... Sometimes the first time they find out is when they get hit and they say 'I didn't know I was in a flood zone'," he added.

Since when is it the job of local government, banks or insurers to give out that information? If you're a prospective homebuyer, it's up to you to to take the initiative, do your due diligence and check out the area you're interested in, including flood and bushfire risks, especially if it's an area you don't know. That can include contacting local councils, real estate agents (although double-check anything they say) but banks? How would they know? Insurers? Really?

Australia's conservative government is only being dragged reluctantly into recognizing the risks associated with a changing climate, beholden as they are to traditional energy and agricultural interests. The problem for them with continuing that line is that even traditionally conservative electorates are changing, becoming more aware of environmental issues and demanding change from their leaders. Losing their voter base, and consequently their power, is what's most likely to bring governments around to recognizing the risks of climate change and actually committing themselves to do something about it.

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Building homes in a flood plain? Why not just build them below the high tide line, during low tide?

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Austrailia is not the sole cause of global warming. Not even close.

But for their government to be willfully obtuse and even obstructionist, is inexcusable.

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This issue of building homes in cheap flood plain lands is one that has irked me for many years. Over here in California there are many areas where housing has expanded into what can be described as flood plains. The climate over here is such that once or twice every hundred years we get extreme rainfall events. In the last few decades thousands of houses and trailer parks have been built in what are dry riverbeds, but which riverbeds will likely be killing grounds in the future. It is totally avoidable, but will not be avoided.

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