Thursday, March 15, 2007

Green politics and climate impacts in the UK

Green politics and climate change in action now.

The prospect of losing homes and belongings to the sea is plaguing coastal communities around the UK.

The planet's climate is expected to change during the coming years and decades, according to scientists.

But the problem is more immediate for many people living in coastal areas at the mercy of the sea.

Communities facing the greatest risks are those in the east and south coast of England.

For example, 26 houses in Happisburgh, a village in Norfolk, have been abandoned due to the erosion of the cliffs on which they were built.

And Aldeburgh, in Suffolk, could become an island if its crumbling sea defences are not repaired.

Erosion is of particular concern in several parts of Scotland including stretches of the Fife coast, Aberdeen and Kirkcaldy.

In April the Foresight Flood and Coastal Defence Project, which involved 60 experts in climate change, engineering and economics, called for increased spending on flood defences and better planning to avoid more homes being put at risk.

Storm surges

For many, the most distressing forecast in the government report outlined the increasing pace of coastal erosion set to accompany climate change.

Rising sea levels are expected to be accompanied by low-lying shores becoming increasingly vulnerable to storm surges.

The report estimated that, if spending continues at current levels, one out of every three existing coastal defences could be destroyed in coming years, putting large parts of the east coast of England at risk.

Responsibility for the defence of coastlines in the UK falls to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency.

The overall strategy for combating rising sea levels is drawn up by Defra, which spends an estimated £500m on coastal defences every year.

A Defra spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "The government has no legal obligation to spend money in this way.

"It chooses to do so because it is socially and economically sensible.

"However, the resources are finite. There are several communities around the country who feel they are in need, so we have to prioritise to spend the money effectively."

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