Rising sea levels will put around 200,000 coastal properties at risk in England within 30 years, new data shows, as the climate crisis takes hold.

It is these dwellings that may not be saved because it would be very expensive to try, by measures such as dykes and other coastal defences. Some of the highest risk areas include North Somerset, Sedgemoor, Wyre and Swale.

The study comes after warnings last week from the head of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, that many homes would be impossible or unprofitable to save, and entire communities would have to move indoors. land, which he called “the most difficult of all inconvenient truths”. .

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Homes at risk are valued in the tens of billions of pounds, and sea level rise that will lead to flooding is now all but inevitable, given the increasing rate of climate degradation.

Sea levels around the English coast are expected to rise by around 35cm by 2050. In addition, the foreshore is eroding, leading to higher waves, especially in stormy weather.

The estimate of nearly 200,000 homes and businesses at risk of abandonment comes from researchers at the Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia, published in the peer-reviewed journal Oceans and Coastal Management.

Paul Sayers, the lead author of the paper, said: “Significant sea level rise is now inevitable. For many of our major coastal cities, protection will continue to be provided, but for some coastal communities this may not be possible. We need a serious national debate about the extent of the threat to these communities and what constitutes a just and lasting response, including how to help people resettle.

Bevan told a conference last week: “In the long term, climate change means that some of our communities – both in this country and around the world – cannot stay where they are. Indeed, even if we can safely return and build back better after most river floods, there is no return for the lands that coastal erosion has washed away or sea level rise has permanently or frequently under water.

He added: “In some places, the right response – in economic, strategic and human terms – will have to be to move communities away from harm rather than trying to shield them from the inevitable impacts of rising sea levels. .”

Previous estimates of the number of homes at risk were lower, as government estimates have not kept up with climate science. In 2018, the Climate Change Commission warned that around a third of Britain’s coastline was at risk.

Jim Hall, professor of climate and environmental risk at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the latest study, said: ‘We need to have honest conversations with coastal communities, that it just won’t be not possible to protect every home and business from sea level rise. These changes are coming sooner than we think and we need to plan now how we can adapt, including a nationwide strategic approach to decide how to manage the coast sustainably in the future.

  • This article was corrected on June 15, 2022 to clarify that the 200,000 units will be at risk of abandonment, but cannot be abandoned.