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Rising sea levels a threat to coastal communities

PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 November 2018

Flooded fields near Earl Stonham. Could this be the norm for the future as rising sea levels are predicted over the coming years? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Flooded fields near Earl Stonham. Could this be the norm for the future as rising sea levels are predicted over the coming years? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Large areas of land stretching as far as Lowestoft in north Suffolk down to Clacton, Walton-on-the-Naze and Mersea Island on the Essex coast are set to be destroyed as rising seas levels flood homes and devastate coastal communities, a chastening Met Office report has concluded.

The UK Climate Projections (UKCP) 2018 report has found UK sea levels are likely to increase by 3-4ft by 2100 and 10ft by 2300 due to greenhouse gas emissions warming the earth.

By mid century, summers as hot as this year’s weeks-long heatwave will be the norm, the researchers said. Rainfall could fall by almost half (47%) in summer by 2070, while rain could be up by more than a third (35%) in winter.

The change will not only impact coastal communities but could spread inland also - with the majority of farmland facing the North Sea falling below sea level and turning to marshes.

Felixstowe Ferry could disappear, while farmland between Aldeburgh and Bawdsey is likely to be overun with flood water.

A range of scenarios are included in the report depending on the different rates of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Each year around 50bn tonnes of CO2 emissions are released into the atmosphere, of which the UK is responsible for 1bn tonnes.

The Met Office warns if these emissions continue the earth will warm by around four degrees centigrade, heating the sea and melting the ice-caps.

And while the high emission projection sees summer temperatures up to 5.4 degrees hotter by 2017 sea levels are projected to rise under all emission scenarios.

Environment secretary Michael Gove believes the findings illustrate the work which needs to avoid potential devastation.

He said: “This cutting-edge science opens our eyes to the extent of the challenge we face, and shows us a future we want to avoid.

“The UK is already a global leader in tackling climate change, cutting emissions by more than 40pc since 1990 – but we must go further.

“By having this detailed picture of our changing climate, we can ensure we have the right infrastructure to cope with weather extremes, homes and businesses can adapt, and we can make decisions for the future accordingly.”

The projections were commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) - with the aim to help policymakers prepare appropriately environmental changes around the globe.

Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser Ian Boyd added: “Climate change will affect everybody. UKCP18 is designed to help everybody make better decisions, from those buying a house to people making large investments in infrastructure. It has been produced using state-of-the-art methods.”

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