Seafront properties will fall victim to climate change- experts warn | Science | News

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Researchers at the UK Arctic Research Station on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard said flooding is likely to increase.

Svalbard’s melting glaciers, plus the receding Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, threaten sea level rises which could cause mass migration from densely populated deltas such as the Nile in Egypt or the Ganges in Bangladesh.

Dr Kevin Newsham of the British Antarctic Survey said: “Anyone living near a river or an estuary should be worried, less from the melting of glaciers in Svalbard but more from what is happening in Greenland and the Antarctic.”

Dr Arwyn Edwards of Aberystwyth University said: “I would not buy a seafront property.

“There are uncertainties about how Antarctic glaciers will respond but if they respond badly we will see a rapid sea level rise.

“Even if they respond well we will see a sea level rise of one to two metres by the end of the century.”

They spoke out as Government advisers yesterday warned that up to 1,000 miles of England’s coast – or 29 per cent – may have to be abandoned in the face of rising sea levels due to global warming.

The Committee on Climate Change predicted a three-foot or more rise in sea levels within the lifetime of many children born today which is likely to cause more frequent floods and accelerate coastal erosion.

Areas affected include stretches of the East coast from Humberside, through Norfolk, to the crumbling chalk cliffs of Beachy Head in Sussex as well as areas such as Dawlish in Devon and much of the Lancashire coast.

The CCC said that the current “Holding the Line” policy would cost up to £30billion by 2100.

But it said flood prevention measures along 90 miles of coast cost more to instal than the property and land is worth. 

For another 900 miles the cost-benefit ratio is too low to secure Government funding.

Professor Jim Hall, the CCC Adaptation Committee’s expert on flooding and coastal erosion, said: “As the climate changes the current approach to protecting the English coastline is not fit for purpose.

“It’s time people woke up to the very real challenges ahead. As sea levels rise and flooding and erosion get worse, we have assessed that current plans for about 150 kilometres, or 90 miles, of the coastline are not cost-beneficial to implement.

“The Government and local authorities need to talk honestly with those affected about the difficult choices they face.

CCC chairman Baroness Brown said for another 900 miles of coastline the cost-benefit ratio was around two – in other words, the land and property protected is worth double the cost of the proposed sea defences.

But normally government funding is only allocated to defences with a cost-benefit ratio of six and above.

The CCC said in the next 60 years the number of properties at risk of coastal flooding could rise three-fold to 1.5 million and the number at risk of erosion could rise 11-fold to 100,000.

In addition, 1,000 miles of major roads, 400 miles of railway line, 92 railway stations and 55 historic landfill sites are at risk of coastal flooding or erosion by 2100.

The British Antarctic Survey researchers said that Svalbard showed clear evidence of climate change.

Dr Newsham said: “There is abundant evidence that Svalbard is warming thanks to temperature records going back more than 100 years.

“Since 1910 the average summer temperature has risen 2C, the average annual temperature has risen 7C and the average winter temperature has risen from -20C to -9C.

“Isfjord, where the capital Longyearbyen sits, always used to freeze up in winter. But the last time it froze was in around 2006.”

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