For some reason ABC chose not to include this critical historical information in a report broadcast by The World Today titled "Fears Islanders may soon be forced out of their homes". In their alarming report the ABC claimed:
"The rise in sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events in the region make the islands at this time of the year particularly vulnerable."
While we agree the islands are vulnerable to inundation, the historical information makes it clear that the vulnerability is not new, and does not arise as a consequence of any change in local or global climate, as ABC would have us believe.
These claims (of rising sea levels and increases in extreme weather events) are not substantiated. In regard to rising sea levels, there are few tide gauges in the area that could be used to support the contention that local sea level is rising. Looking at the tide chart below for Turtle Island (near Thursday Island) from the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL). It appears that local sea level in this part of Torres Strait has been fluctuating since records began. But there is not much data to go on.
As ABC do not quote any authority for their claim that extreme weather events are increasing in the region we assume they just made that one up. Wouldn't be the first time!
We have requested ABC substantiate the claims made in their report, and to include mention of the historically significant inundation events in the online version.
PS. A related piece from last year titled Torres Strait pleads for climate change action, leads with the following sentence: Torres Strait Islanders have warned Prime Minister Julia Gillard they could become Australia's first climate change refugees if she continues to ignore the effects of rising sea levels in the area.
Amazing how much can be debunked with a little historical context and a little data!