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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
South: Climate change, what does it mean?
Chrissy Sturt
Chrissy Sturt
Researcher, Politics Show South

Are we ready for a hotter, windier, stormier south? The Politics Show is in flood hit Lewes to investigate.

The South's climate is changing. The heat is up.

Over the past century the average temperature has risen and summer rainfall has decreased.

Stilt house in Lewes
Living accommodation is 5ft above the previous flood level

Three years ago the Sussex town of Lewes and villages in the Ouse valley suffered severe flooding.

More than 600 houses and 200 businesses were hit.

The unluckiest families found themselves exiled from their homes for up to 18 months.

Some businesses are still counting the cost to this day, and the Environment Agency says the cleanup bill came to a massive 130m.

A long term strategy to deal with flooding in the Ouse Valley has now been drawn up.

From November 2003, a series of flood defence works will swing into action.

In Lewes this includes a series of earth embankments along the river along with some concrete walls.

Is it enough?

Many local people feel frustrated by the slow pace of such works.

The Lewes Flood Action Group wants more to be done, and faster.

Committee member Peter Atkins describes the riverbank plans as 'feeble'.

'The flooding could happen again,' he says. 'DEFRA is not making sufficient money available.'

It is almost certain that flooding will return to Lewes. Sea levels off the South East coast are rising at the rate of 6mm a year.

Studies by the UK Climate Impacts Programme predict more extreme weather is on its way.

By the 2080s the 'mean' sea level in the English Channel could have gone up by 54 cm.

The heat wave of 1995 will occur almost every year. And winters will be very wet, with normal rainfall up by 160%.

What can be done?

Norman Baker MP
UK must do more to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases

The Politics Show South asked MP for Lewes, Norman Baker, what he thinks of the flood plans.

As the Liberal Democrat's spokesman for the environment, he believes we must do more to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.

He agrees with the main principles of The Kyoto Treaty.

Drawn up in 1997, it legally binds industrialised nations to reduce worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2% below their 1990 levels over the next decade.

Mr Baker has said: "Kyoto is not perfect and needs to go further, but it is a necessary first step in the fight against global climate change.

"It is time for the 'big three' - the US, Russia and Australia - to sign up to the agreement."

Sceptical authorities

But some scientists rubbish this approach.

So called greenhouse sceptics, or 'deniers', argue our dramatic weather is part of long-term climate change, and has little to do with emissions.

Global warming is a political issue and amounts to a vast 'post-modernist myth'.
Professor Philip Stott

The Politics Show South will talk to one of them, Professor Philip Stott of the University of London.

He describes himself as global warming 'realist'.

'Climate is always changing. If we shut down every factory and car and power station, it will still change.

"We cannot predictably control climate, even if we followed everything the Lib Dems suggest.'

In his opinion, global warming is a political issue and amounts to a vast 'post-modernist myth'.

He thinks politicians and pressure groups have latched onto this pseudo science in order to pursue an anti car, anti American, anti development agenda.

The Politics Show

The Politics Show South talks to Rising Tide, the only green group which campaigns solely on the need to combat climate change.

They denounce the sceptics, and are pushing for radical, urgent action to save the planet from cataclysmic climate change.

You can have your say by contacting us using the form below.

And don't forget to watch the Politics Show, with presenter Peter Henley, each Sunday from noon on BBC1.

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Politics from around the UK...

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