Last chance to save the planet: UK is not prepared for coastal erosion

ITV News deputy political editor Anushka Asthana takes a closer look at how climate change is affecting lives in Britain, in the first of a special series of reports in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow

A leader climate change An expert has warned that Britain is not adequately preparing for the inevitable impact of global warming on its coasts.

Professor Jim Hall, who has advised the government for 10 years as a key member of the Climate Change Committee, told ITV News that coastal erosion and flooding will inevitably worsen, leading to difficult decisions for them. local communities.

“We cannot afford to protect everywhere,” said Professor Hall, professor of climate and environmental risks at the University of Oxford.

“There have been reckless decisions as to where developments are taking place, many of them inadvertently.

“Now we see the science of climate change, we recognize that it is just not sustainable in the future. “

Professor Hall argued that people were naturally drawn to life by the sea, but said many “were not really aware of the risks they were going to be exposed to.”

A teetering coastal house is destroyed in Hemsby. Credit: Pennsylvania

When asked what his main warning to the government had been as a member of the committee advising ministers on how to adapt to climate change, he said: “The risks of climate change on the coast are not really sufficiently taken into account. “

The comments come as ITV News traveled to the Cornish and Norfolk coasts to examine the different ways communities are trying to adapt to the threat of climate change.

Coastal communities in England and Wales fall into one of four categories to decide their fate, with the two key options: spending money on expensive sea defenses to ‘hold the line’ and protect. communities, or “managed realignment” where the coast is allowed to retreat with support for residents at risk of losing their homes en route.

The decision on which group a community belongs to depends on whether an economic or environmental argument is made to protect it. As a result, villages – with less housing and therefore a weaker business case – are often placed in the second category.

It has happened to Happisburgh and Hemsby on the Norfolk coast, where residents feel abandoned, with no new sea defenses like neighboring areas.

In Happisburgh, neighbors Bryony and Nicola live just 30 or 40 yards from where their road abruptly ends, as everything before them has now fallen into the sea.

Bryony told ITV News that her old bungalow had already been lost, but she hadn’t moved further inland because she wanted to stay in the village and fight to protect it.

Nicola Bayless believes if her house was located elsewhere it would be saved

Nicola argued that if this was an area deemed “important” by the government, it would be saved, but “it’s important, it’s our home,” she said, arguing that the ministers had not assessed the importance of “village life”.

Her 18-year-old daughter Darcy said she was sad never to be able to show her children where she grew up as she expected her home to be lost in the sea in a few years.

In Hemsby, Lance Martin lives in the only house left on the edge of the coast, after the city council demolished the others following a terrible storm in 2018. He managed to move his house back 10 meters, and protect it. himself with stones. But half of his garden has fallen. Again, he asked why his house was not protected by the authorities while the neighboring towns were.

Experts said decisions tended to consider how many homes would be lost and over what time period.

Low-lying areas prone to flooding and with large towns nearby tended to qualify for defenses due to the increased risk.

In Looe, Cornwall, the decision was made to ‘hold the line’ due to the size of the town, which now floods around 12 times a year, affecting hundreds of properties.

There, a new tidal gate was proposed which could protect the community for years to come. A local pub owner said without it his business would be lost in an instant.

The threat to the UK coast is one of many threats the country faces, even if global warming is kept below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels or ideally 1.5 ° C as agreed in Paris in 2015.

The fact that the UK is hosting Cop 26 this autumn means that the focus will be on its own emission reduction and adaptation plans.

About Elaine Morales

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