National Trust highlights climate threat to coast

Climate change could destroy many of Britain's coastal areas as sea levels rise and more intense storms bring flooding and corrosion, a study commissioned by the National Trust has warned.

As Britain’s biggest coastal landowner, the National Trust saw it prudent to assess the risks climate change poses to its seaside properties over the next 100 years.

The Trust owns 1130km of coastline, or a tenth of the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, of which 60% could be lost to erosion over the next 100 years according to the study. 15% of these sites could see water entering over 100 metres inland.

The South West region is most threatened, with 279km of coastline at risk of eroding away and 852km at risk of flooding. Wales is also particularly threatened by flooding (768km under threat) and erosion (167km). Stackpole Estate in Pembrokeshire and Cemlyn Lagoon on Anglesey are among the sites under threat.

The National Trust looks to adaptation as the favoured response, recognising the drawbacks of rock or concrete defences that it says amount to “buying time” as they can only be relied on as a temporary measure in any case.

Resisting the forces of nature with hard defences can backfire, as National Trust sites now suffering the knock-on effects of hard engineering further down the coast demonstrate. East Head in Sussex is deprived of its supply of shingles due to hard defences protecting settlements on the Manhood peninsula, for example.

As an island nation, Britons have a particularly close relationship with the sea, the National Trust points out – no-one in the UK lives more than 75 miles away from the coast.

The Shifting Shores study used data from Defra’s FutureCoast data, the Environment Agency’s flood risk maps and UKCIP predicted sea-level rise over the next century.

“The coast is a canary for climate change. It shows how the effects are happening today and close to home. This should strengthen the call for action to cut greenhouse gases, but we also need to adapt to the changes underway,” the study concluded.

Goska Romanowicz

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