The United Kingdom is at risk
Photo by Richard (Flickr)
by Mairi-Netta Young
Earlier this month, it was declared that current efforts to keep temperature rises under 1.5°C were failing – predicting, instead, a minimum increase of 3°C. This news aimed to convince the public that no one is without risk from Global Climate Change. Specific implications for Southern England included the fact that 520,000 properties are in areas with a current level of 0.5% (or greater) risk from coastal flooding.Current predictions for climate change indicate a minimum increase of one metre sea level rise, potentially occurring within the next 80 years. In light of this, it is understood that current shoreline management plans will be ineffective. By 2080, it is estimated that up to 1.2 million homes will be at risk from coastal floods – a large percentage of the British population.
Nevertheless, studies still indicate a lack of understanding from the general public. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) believe that people are aware of Climate Change – they are, however, unable to grasp the consequences this has for each individual. Spokesperson Julia King stated that “We’ve got to wake up to the fact that we’ve got some very difficult challenges ahead.” She added that it is the responsibility of the local council to start having honest discussions with the local people in order to prepare them for difficult upcoming decisions.
However, it is not just those living on the coast who are at risk from rising sea levels. Transport, energy, and waste infrastructures are also exposed to coastal flooding and erosion. On a larger scale, around 7,500 km of road and 520 km of railway line are also currently at risk – endangering the wider public transport system. Furthermore, there are a number of power plants, harbours and ports, and other significant assets also at risk, threatening not only the local people, but the rest of the United Kingdom.
Current efforts to mitigate consequences of sea level rises are already in place. Following advice given several decades ago, the UK government has contributed £1.2 billion to coastal erosion and sea flooding projects. However, recent reports state that a sea level rise of only 0.5 metres will see 20% of these defences becoming vulnerable to failure. Alongside sea level rises, deterioration of salt marshes, shingle beaches and sand dunes threatens to increase the rate at which coastal erosion occurs, ensuring further damage to British communities.
Recently, it has become evident that we are unable to escape the consequences of Global Climate Change. It is likely that, within a lifetime, members of the British public will be affected by increases in sea level. The CCC warns that now is the time to stop ignoring the issue, and begin to understand that drastic changes are imminent.