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Romney Marsh landscape under threat of flooding according to new scientific report

An area of Kent could potentially be lost to flooding by the end of the century, new environment data has revealed.

The Met Office has warned that sea levels could rise by between three and four feet by 2100, putting low-lying land, including Romney Marsh, at risk.

The news comes as part of the UK Climate Projections 2018 (UKCP18) report - a comprehensive forecast of how the climate could change over the next 100 years - which has been launched today by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Romney Marsh marshlands. Credit: Stephen Nunney on Wikimedia Commons (5615633)
Romney Marsh marshlands. Credit: Stephen Nunney on Wikimedia Commons (5615633)

The results set out a range of possible outcomes over the next century based on different rates of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

It notes that sea levels are projected to rise over the 21st century and beyond under all emission scenarios – meaning an increase in both the frequency and magnitude of extreme water levels around the UK coastline is expected.

The sea wall at Dymchurch stands up to the storm surge. Picture: Gary Browne
The sea wall at Dymchurch stands up to the storm surge. Picture: Gary Browne

According to The Sunday Times' report on the new data, it warns some coastal towns may have to be abandoned because of just how much sea defences would cost.

It adds that stretches of low-lying farmland could also be gone, with the lowest such as Romney Marsh and parts of Essex facing near-permanent flooding. In some areas, the impacts could reach inland farmland and be at risk of turning to marsh if they lie below the sea level.

The article also states that across the UK, 100,000 coastal properties would be at risk from wave erosion with the rise, with another 100,000 on seaside cliffs vulnerable to landslips. It also reports according to a recent Committee on Climate Change report, up to 1.7m homes would be threatened with flooding.

The high emission scenario from the Met Office report also shows that summer temperatures could be up to 5.4 degrees hotter by 2070, while winters could be up to 4.2 degrees warmer if things carry on as they are.

Meanwhile, the chance of summers being as hot as this year's will sit around 50% by 2050, and average summer rainfall could decrease by up to 47% by 2070.

St Mary's Bay, Romney Marsh. Picture credit: Ian Dunster, Wikipedia
St Mary's Bay, Romney Marsh. Picture credit: Ian Dunster, Wikipedia

Speaking today from the Science Museum in London, Michael Gove 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 40 % 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.”

Today’s projections are the result of a long-term project supported by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, offering the first major update of climate projections in nearly 10 years.

Michael Gove. Picture: Tony Flashman
Michael Gove. Picture: Tony Flashman

The UKCP18 will be used as a tool to guide decisions such as increasing flood defences, designing new infrastructure or adjusting farming techniques for drier summers.

Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said: “The new science in UKCP18 enables us to move from looking at the trends associated with climate change, to describing how seasonal weather patterns will change.

"For example, heatwaves like the one we experienced in the summer of 2018 could be normal for the UK by mid-century.”

Since 2010 government has invested £2.6 billion in flood defences.

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