Suffolk coast - the threat of climate change and rising sea level

27 November 2015


Rising seas at Felixstowe, Aldeburgh and Southwold

Southwold and Aldeburgh will be well on the way to becoming offshore islands by the end of the century unless drastic action is taken now to halt the emission of greenhouse gases.

Rising sea at AldeburghTowns and villages along the East Anglian coast may be at greater risk from climate change than previously thought, with the long-term sustainability of communities, homes, businesses and jobs under threat.

Steve Smedley of Suffolk Coastal Green Party has been examining the latest scientific predictions. And he has teamed up with American research team Climate Central to produce these maps of how Suffolk’s coastline will look beyond 2100 if the world warms by just the widely expected 2ºC.

Dr Smedley says: “Recent studies suggest that carbon emissions produced now could have a cumulative effect on temperatures far beyond what is currently thought. The effect would be to ‘lock in’ long-term sea-level rise beyond the end of this century that greatly exceeds current projections.

“As global temperatures rise, sea levels also rise because more water is fed into the oceans from melting polar ice, and the oceans themselves expand as they warm up. The generally accepted increase in sea level due to climate change by the year 2100 is between 0.5 to 1 metre.

“But these new studies show that even if carbon emissions were kept low enough to meet the internationally agreed 2ºC of global warming, the cumulative effect of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere could see sea levels continue to rise beyond 2100 by up to 4.5 metres. This would have catastrophic consequences for coastal communities on the east coast.

“Projections produced by the online mapping tool from Climate Central show how Suffolk communities and businesses would be placed under enormous pressures from rising sea levels as existing sea defences are overtopped.

Sea rise at Southwold“Felixstowe docks would be completely inundated. Thousands of hectares of productive farming land along the Deben, Alde and Ore estuaries would be permanently under water. Aldeburgh and Southwold would become islands.

“What is not clear is the time-scale for the sea to reach these levels. But what the research does make clear is that the climate choices and decisions we make now will have far-reaching consequences for centuries to come. The need for tough global action on climate change, particularly on carbon emissions, is becoming more urgent every day. That is why it is of the utmost importance that governments take decisive action on climate change now.”

Members of Suffolk Coastal Green Party will be joining campaigners, activists and others in London on Sunday, November 29 for a mass demonstration to put pressure on all governments to reach a binding deal on global carbon emissions at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris next month. Similar mass demonstrations are expected in cities around the world.

Unfortunately, for the long-term security of the most vulnerable communities on our coast, that international climate change deal may already  be too late.

Images used by permission of Climate Central.






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