A Few More Feet of Sea

Now, I used to be a ‘flat earther’ when it came to climate change. To me the possibility that the earth could be irrevocably affected by what countries were emitting in the way of CO2 and other gases could only be a fallacy. I was definitely with Donald Trump on that. Since I have been around these parts I think it must have been communing with nature and the long walks in this glorious county side got me worrying.

The nature of my life has been to worry. Does not matter what day it is, or what subject, I can worry about it. For example my sourdough starter followed by my sourdough loaf, I will always worry about the outcome. It is the outcome, isn’t it, that we worry about? If we start worrying about worrying itself then we are absolutely shafted. The problem is that, and I don’t have a sixth sense, I seem to know the outcomes of my worrying before they occur. Not sure if it is the ability to apply no nonsense logic that allows me to do this or that I only remember the outcomes which justified the cause of my worrying, and not the ones that never happened. My sourdough starter was surely the reason for my loaf resembling a kerbstone and one of those that are ‘dropped’ to allow cars to get over. It could not be my ability to follow simple kneading instructions. Sourdough loaves are only now available from the supermarkets and not from my oven.

So I am now worrying about global warming and the effect it will have on the earth. Not that I will see that outcome of my worrying, unless they find the elixir of eternal life in the next few years. It may not even be an outcome that should worry my children, but their children are surely going to enjoy the result of the dumb ignorance and profligacy of the countries, including ours, that continue to pump out greenhouse gases at an alarming rate. It is all bad news.

A depressing fact was that on Thursday 2nd May, the morning after the UK Parliament voted to declare a climate emergency, the Committee on Climate Change advised that the UK should completely eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. No, this is not what is depressing it is the fact that we are only 15th in the table of emissions by country. If you compare us to China we only had about 4% of their emissions in 2015. So no matter what we do as a country unless the other countries fall into step then we are still shafted. So should that mean that we should give up on climate on the basis that we can thumb our noses at China and the USA because we are much better, or is it because we are so much smaller?

Another depressing fact is that it is not only sea ice that is melting but also glaciers and mountain ice. I knew about sea ice and arctic ice sheets. So does the mountain ice affect us. I am assuming that apart from the bit that leaches into the subsoil all this melting mountain ice will eventually reach the sea. As a very low lying area of the country then Suffolk should be worried. Apparently the famed snows of Kilimanjaro (news to me; the famed bit not that they exist) have melted 80% since 1912. Glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya in India are retreating so fast that researchers believe that most of the central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035. Of course we will not forget the sea ice.

Apparently the Vikings recorded sea ice in 870. So they were not all about raping and pillaging although I think a bit of that went on. They used to record how many weeks ice occurred along the north coast of Iceland. Global air temperature records date back to the 1880s and can offer a stand-in (proxy) for Arctic sea ice conditions; but such temperature records were initially collected at just 11 locations. Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute has compiled ice charts since 1933. So we have data on the winter and summer ice cover for some time. More recently we have satellite images of the coverage of the ice. Last November when the sea ice should have been expanding in the Arctic the region actually warmed up. Apparently it was 20 degrees centigrade warmer than it should have been. In January the ice sheet in the Arctic was, at 13.38 million sq km, the lowest cover since satellites began recording and was 26,000 sq km less that January last year. Clearly there is something going on.   

Rising sea levels is not about the actual melting of sea ice. The sea ice already displaces the same weight of water. The melting of sea ice will not increase the sea level anywhere. The issue is with sea ice sheets melting allows the ocean which it previously occupied to absorb more sunlight and increase the temperature of the sea. This allows more ice to melt and so on. Now I am not an expert on the effect of warming sea temperatures, the circulation currents and so on because it is so complex it gives me a headache just thinking about it. I believe we have to accept that the melting of the sea ice and the warming of the sea is certainly not good news!

There are all sorts of imaginative schemes proposed to stop or improve the melting sea ice problem. One scientist wants to install wind pumps to bring water that is insulated from the arctic cold to the surface so that it freezes and increases the thickness of the ice. Others want to reflect the Sun’s rays to stop it warming the area. One scheme is to scatter light coloured particles in the air over the region and the other is to create artificial clouds by spraying sea water into the atmosphere. None of these sound very cheap.

The thing that will cause the rises in sea level is the melting of land based ice, glaciers ice sheets and the such like. The sea level is rising at about 3 mm per year owing to melting at poles and other places like Greenland. It is funny that the land is called Greenland when it is mostly covered in ice (currently). Well it was Eric the Red, when he was exiled from Iceland, he landed on Greenland and he named it to attract more people. I am not 100% sure about this explanation but it sounds good enough.

So what is likely to be the result of this increase in the sea level? As we have seen with the North sea surges that occur with spring tides and certain weather systems the level of the sea is actually not level. Sea levels rise greater at specific locations which may be more or less than the global average due to local factors such as land subsidence from natural processes, withdrawal of groundwater and fossil fuels, changes in regional ocean currents, and whether the land is still rebounding from the compressive weight of Ice Age glaciers. In urban settings, rising seas threaten infrastructure necessary for local jobs and regional industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills—virtually all human infrastructure—is at risk from sea level rise. That may sound like I copied that bit from somewhere and yep I did!

Now I am not saying that we should immediately go out and buy a Gee Wiz but I believe we should start being more responsible. Whatever you feel about climate protesters and their protests in London they do have a point. Like Emily Davison the suffragette who was killed at the Derby trying to attach a flag to the King’s horse and the Chinese guy who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen during the pro-democracy protests you have to admire their commitment to a cause. Like them or loathe them the Climate Change protesters are committed to a cause and something that we have had recent experience of in this village.

What really annoys me is the other side of the coin and that steak demanding motoring journalist who used to waste an hour of our televisual Sunday nights exposing us to his brand of ‘motoring mayhem’ or ‘motoring cohones’ as I prefer to think of it. In The Times he was calling the climate protesters men and women with unnecessary hair who were blocking up intersections with kumbaya singsongs and holistic wellness seminars. He states that it is difficult to understand what they want. Mmm. They probably want you to stop extolling the virtues of a V10 German car that generates 298 g/km of CO2 (three times as polluting as my car) and the hope that the car, along with your other reviewed super cars, will soon be as extinct as the dinosaurs that disappeared at one of our previous global events.

I have been thinking of writing this article for a few days now but it is very much a current topic after the environment agency issued a warning in the last few days. It stated that it is not possible to keep pace with rising sea levels by building infinitely high sea defences. Currently two thirds of properties in England are served by infrastructure that is in areas that are at the risk of flooding. For every property that suffers actual flooding 16 more will be affected by loss of services as a result of that flood.

So what is going to be like in East Anglia in a post glacier world? Not good. Apparently the committee for climate change warned that over 1.2 million homes could be at risk of rising sea levels and coastal floods by 2080. I said it was not going to worry me. It is probably going to need about one billion pounds to be spent on flood defences every year. At some point there is the realisation that you cannot build flood defences that are infinitely high and you either have to accept the change or try and reverse the effect of green house gases. If we accept the change then East Anglia looks a very different place. The Wash draws a new line that puts Wisbech, Holbeach and Spalding all under water. Cambridge becomes a coastal city and the Isle of Ely becomes an island again.

So what will this do to the Peninsula? Well if you have a look at the Environment Agency flood planning map at the top I think this gives a good idea. Bawdsey becomes an island again. Alderton is a coastal town and it makes it really difficult to get your gas guzzler off the Peninsula. Ford Hill becomes a ford or even impassable, and Hollesley sits on a river which cuts us off from Duck Corner. From the Hollesley end of Bushy Lane to just before the church will be river. We will have to use Bussock Lane which I believe was the old route off the Peninsula. It may be fun initially but it will certainly pale after a bit.

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