Sea level rise ‘may hit 1.5m UK homes by 2080’: Climate advisers warn of erosion and floods danger

Coastal erosion affecting the cliffs at Skipsea.
Coastal erosion affecting the cliffs at Skipsea.
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Coastal flooding and erosion could threaten as many as 1.5m properties in England by 2080 as sea levels rise, the Government’s climate advisors have warned, calling for action to divert a disaster.

A report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), looking at the impact of climate change, warns that sea levels could rise by up to a three feet within the lifetime of children born today.

East Yorkshire has been highlighted as one of the English areas most susceptible to coastal erosion, while Whitby and Scarborough in North Yorkshire have long suffered with major rock falls in recent years.

It would not be possible to protect the whole English coastline as it is today, committee members now warn, adding that coastal flooding or erosion could hit hundreds of miles of major roads and railway lines.

“We are anticipating a metre (3ft) of sea level rise – that is really inevitable, and of course it could be more,” said Chris Stark, committee chief executive. “But we don’t think the current approach to protect our coastline is fit for purpose. It’s time to have an honest conversation about this – we are not far off having something that could work.”

Members of the public were not being properly informed about the risks of coastal erosion and flooding, the report concludes, and how that would change in the future.

A couple selling up and retiring to the coast could be cash buyers of a property “with a fabulous sea view”, without being given any information about whether it was at risk of coastal erosion.

Committee member Prof Jim Hall, from the University of Oxford, said that information should be made available – though it could hit house prices. And current plans to protect around 90 miles of the coastline around England would not be affordable to implement, he added, while around 900 miles may not secure money for defences under current government funding priorities.

Implementing current policies to protect England’s coasts would cost £18 to £30bn, the report found and long-term “shoreline management plans” which were meant to cover efforts to manage the coast were not legally-binding and were unfunded.

The Government should look at introducing an insurance scheme, committee members said, to protect properties. And the committee called on the Government and local authorities to engage properly with members of the public, arguing that ministers must make funding and investment available to protect cities, restore coastal habitats and help affected communities cope with the inevitable changes.

A Government spokesman said in response to the report: “The Environment Secretary has been very clear – we will take the action required to ensure our country is resilient and prepared for the challenges the changing climate brings.

The Government has already committed £1.2bn of investment in coastal erosion and sea flooding projects over the next six years to better protect 170,000 homes.

“We welcome the committee’s report which will inform our work to tackle increasing flood and coastal erosion risks, ahead of the publication of our Government Policy Statement on flooding and coastal erosion next year.”