Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

The term climate change refers to a change in global or regional climate patterns. It is usually used in the context of man-made effects on the environment - largely by the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It is not just about us getting hotter weather or melting ice caps; climate change can impact in other ways. For example, the increase in extreme storms can bring flooding to new areas, affecting agriculture, wildlife and people's homes.

Climate Change Throughout the Solent and England

There is no doubt that Coastal Change is being accelerated by increased storminess, changing wave patterns and rising sea levels. Across England, there are more than 1.8m people at coastal flood and erosion risk, this is only set to increase.

Over the next 50 years there are numerous updates planned to coastal flood defences. With these updates there are about 3,000 properties at risk. Without them, the number could rise to 28,000 properties.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) is projecting sea level rise of up to 0.77m by 2100 for 1.5°C of global warming and 0.93 m for 2°C. In the English Channel, sea levels are currently rising by between 1.45 - 3mm/yr.

In 2013/14 we experienced the stormiest winter on record, in particular the St Valentine's night storms in 2014. In 2016, we experienced record breaking wave heights resulting in defence failures, flooding and erosion across the central south coast of England.

As a predominately low-lying coastline, climate change in the Solent is one of the largest challenges we will face. If not planned for or managed correctly this could have significant impacts on the economy, the environment, public health and the existing way of life for coastal communities.

“Climate change is making the UK warmer and wetter, and we will be visited by extreme weather more frequently in the future. So we need to shift gears, to ensure we adapt and become more resilient.”

George Eustice, the secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

How Climate Change Affects the Coast

As land ice melts and the warming oceans expand, sea levels rise. Global sea level has risen by around 20cm over the past century, likely faster than at any point in the last 2,000 years. The rate of sea level rise has increased substantially over the 20th Century and further rise this century is inevitable.

In the UK it is also important to consider a form of land movement called ‘glacial isostatic adjustment’.  This slow land movement has been happening since the last ice age where the release of pressure means that the northern part of the UK is slowly rising and the southern part is slowly sinking. This means that sea level rise is less for the north-west and north-east than the rest of the country.

Source: The Environment Agency Source: The Environment Agency

Sea Level Rise

The change in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by ongoing global climate change:

  1. Thermal expansion: When water heats up, it expands. About half of the sea-level rise over the past 25 years is attributable to warmer oceans simply occupying more space.
  2. Melting glaciers: Persistently higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater-than-average summer melting as well as diminished snowfall due to later winters and earlier springs. That creates an imbalance that leads to sea level rise.
  3. Loss of Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets: As with mountain glaciers, increased heat is causing the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt more quickly. 

Source: National Geographic

Coastal Partners and Climate Change

The government’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Strategy sets out 3 long-term ambitions that we are working in conjunction with. The Strategy aims to create:

  • climate resilient places
  • today’s growth and infrastructure resilient in tomorrow’s climate
  • a nation ready to respond and adapt to flooding and coastal change
Source: The Environment Agency Source: The Environment Agency

This guidance is incorporated into coastal management projects through risk mapping in Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs), Strategies and Schemes to identify assets at risk in the short, medium and longer term.

SMPs account for climate change in defining long-term management planning. They take a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change and consider flood risk, coastal change, water supply, biodiversity and landscapes, and the risk of overheating from rising temperatures.

Challenges Across our Region

In December 2021 Storm Barra highlighted the devastating effects on seaside communities when high tides and storms combine. We are at the forefront of solutions to protect communities, however there is a growing realisation that places can’t simply be protected everywhere forever.

Central government funding is available to upgrade defences where there are large communities at risk, but where they are not immediately at risk, funding is less readily available. Additionally, the region also has ageing sea defences and reduced revenue to maintain them.  

Coastal Partners are rising to these challenges by leading collaborative working across Councils and extended administrative boundaries throughout the South of England. Click here to read more about SCOPAC