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1.2 Million Coastal Homes in England at Risk from Sea Level Rise by 2080

The number of coastal properties at risk from flooding in England could triple by 2080. Copyright George W Johnson / Moment / Getty Images

"We are not prepared."


That's the major takeaway from a new report by the UK's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) looking at the potential impact of sea level rise on England's coastal homes and infrastructure, as one report author Prof. Jim Hall told The Guardian.

The report, released Thursday, found that a third of current plans to shore up coastlines are not affordable, and that the country has not honestly confronted the level of risk.

"There genuinely will be homes that it will not be possible to save," CCC's adaptation committee chair Baroness Brown told The Guardian. "The current approach is not fit for purpose. This report is really a wake-up call to the fact that we can't protect the whole English coast to today's standard. We could see as much as a meter of sea level rise before the end of the century, so within the lifetime of today's children, and that has a major impact on coastal flooding and erosion."

The management plans currently in place have no funding or enforcement, the report said. Further, plans to protect more than 150 kilometers (approximately 93 miles) of coastline would cost more than the land they would save.

BBC News and The Guardian summarized the report's major findings.

Currently:

  • 520,000 properties, including 370,000 homes, face a 0.5 percent or greater risk from annual coastal flooding.
  • 8,900 properties are at risk from coastal landslides.
  • Around 7,500 kilometers (approximately 4,660 miles) of road, 520 kilometers (approximately 323 miles) of railway, 205,000 hectares (approximately 506,566 acres) of agricultural land and 3,400 hectares (approximately 8,401 acres) of potentially toxic landfill face a 0.1 percent or greater risk of coastal flooding each year.

By 2080:

  • 1.5 million properties, including 1.2 million homes, could be at risk from floods.
  • Another 100,000 properties could be at risk from landslides caused by erosion.
  • About 1,600 kilometers (approximately 994 miles) of major roads, 650 kilometers (approximately 404 miles) of railway, 92 railway stations and 55 historic landfill sites could be at risk from flooding or erosion.

Coastal communities are especially vulnerable because the people who live there tend to be poorer and older than average. The public is also uniformed about the risks of coastal erosion, and there is no insurance for people who lose their homes to coastal landslides, BBC News reported.

"A retired couple could buy, with cash, a house with a fabulous sea view without being given any information about whether it was at risk of erosion," Brown told The Guardian.

The CCC called on the national government to develop strategies and help people relocate if necessary.

The risk to coasts from climate change is made worse by development, The Guardian pointed out.

In England, only 45% of the coastline remains wild. These stretches of hard cliffs, shingle banks and mudflats can respond to rising sea levels in a natural way. But for the 55% that is developed, a choice between building further defences or allowing the sea in has to be made.
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