Warning over rising sea levels

A CONSERVATION group has warned the region will see one of the highest sea level rises in the country unless positive action is taken to combat climate change.

A CONSERVATION group has warned the region will see one of the highest sea level rises in the country unless positive action is taken to combat climate change.

Revised figures for the East of England estimate it will witness a rise of 77cm by 2080 if global emissions continue to grow.

And even if emissions are reduced, parts of East Anglia could still be covered in water due to existing CO2 levels, with research now showing the sea level rise could be as much as 17cm - double the global average.

This “best case scenario” could see Southwold and Aldeburgh turned into islands while Felixstowe could be threatened on three sides, it has been claimed.

But the Environment Agency has admitted that the latest figures produced by the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) are conservative.

Environmental campaign group WWF said sea level rises would cause coastal erosion and extensive flooding in this low-lying region, having a major economic impact and damaging the tourist industry.

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Beaches, wetlands, mudflats and salt marshes may be lost and the flora and fauna that thrive in their unique habitats would be destroyed. Regional transport including rail and road services would also be affected, WWF warned.

Gill Yeates, WWF regional manager, said: “The UKCIP report provides us with a clear warning of the major effects climate change will have on the region.

“Local authorities and Government agencies must redouble their efforts to promote energy efficiency to households as well as helping develop viable renewable energy sources in the region, such as wave and tidal power. Government must also continue to keep climate change at the top of the international agenda.”

But the organisation said CO2 emissions in the east could increase from the building of 478,000 new homes planned for the region over the next 15 years, as included in the East of England Plan.

Its stark warnings have been backed up by a recent Government report which predicts global sea levels could rise by seven metres over the next 1,000 years if the Greenland ice sheet melts.

John Gummer, president of the action group Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR) and Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “Even if you take the best case scenario Suffolk Coastal has to fight extremely hard to reduce emissions so there is less damage and defend the coastline.

“A 77cm sea level rise is a really terrifying scenario. We have to hope we do not see the worst case scenario. It will have a definite impact on houses, villages and towns in Suffolk.

“Under the best case scenario Aldeburgh and Southwold would become islands and Felixstowe would be threatened on three sides. This is very, very serious.”

Dr Julian Wright, the Environment Agency's principal officer for climate change in East Anglia, said: “The figures WWF have quoted are the most reasonable figures that are out there. If anything, they are fairly moderate and they are fairly scientifically-expected figures. There have been some studies that have shown much greater rises. They are the ones we are dealing with at the Environment Agency.”

He said a 77cm rise would have a differing impact in the region depending on what the agency does but added the issue was “more complex” than simply investing in sea defences.

“In the long term we cannot keep throwing more and more money at the coast as it just won't work,” he said.

Next week people from across the region are set to descend on Westminster to lobby local MPs as part of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition. The lobbyists will be calling on politicians to start taking climate change seriously.

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