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Thursday, November 12, 1998 Published at 17:07 GMT


Global warming threat to Britain's coast

Coastal villages like this are most at risk from global warming

BBC's Margaret Gilmore reports on the British coastline's battle with the elements
As political leaders discuss the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the world environment conference in Buenos Aires, damaging weather patterns are already having a disastrous effect on Norfolk's coastline.

The cliffs in Happisburgh in Norfolk are eroding faster than ever before. Many of those responsible for the sea defences here believe that global warming, which causes sea levels to rise, is a factor.

Homes and businesses along the coastline have already been lost, and local residents are fearing that their homes may be next.

Global warming
Diana Wrightson, the owner of a Happisburgh tea shop, said: "We could lose our home, our business and everything we've got, and have to draw on our savings and go into rented accommodation."

"That would be the end for us, really," Ms Wrightson said.

[ image: Flood defences have already been torn down by the sea]
Flood defences have already been torn down by the sea
Flood defences that should last 50 years ago are already letting the sea through, and the local council says the problem of rising sea level is only getting worse.

Brian Farrow, of the North Norfolk District Council, said: "The best information we have at the moment is that in the next 50 to 60 years, the sea levels will rise by about six millimetres so we will take that into account in our planning."

British scientists say global warming is already bringing drier summers, wetter winters and warmer seas in the UK. They say there will be more floods on the coast and in mainland Britain.

The centre of Gloucester floods frequently. Now giant models have been built of the city to study how best to defend it in future.

With many scientists believing that the world is getting hotter and the associated problems set to increase, the priority now is to ensure adequate flood defences are in place.

These may delay the effects of a rougher, rising sea, but they will not save every home.

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