'Meaningful action' needed as rising sea levels destroying region's homes

A leading voice on climate change is warning we must adapt urgently in order to save the region's homes, livelihoods and natural surroundings.

Professor Daniel Parsons, director of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull, is attending COP26 this week.

He says it must lead to "meaningful and legally binding action" before it is too late.

Residents in Aldbrough say they have seen many lose their homes as the land beneath them disappeared. Credit: ITV Calendar

One of his main concerns is the impact it is having on the east of the country, which is now some of the fastest eroding coastline in the world.

Over centuries, it has been slowly retreating against the power of the North Sea, as the soft boulder clay which makes up the cliffs is easily eroded by the wind and the waves.

Analysis by University of Hull PhD student Serena Teasdale

Monthly monitoring of a 200 m stretch of coastline, south of the town of Withernsea was conducted between June 2019 and May 2020. A special terrestrial scanning laser was used to calculate the rate of erosion by measuring the distance based on a time delay from the returned laser pulse. The sensor can scan from side to side over a given range so that a large field of view can be captured.

In total 298 individual failure events were identified during the survey period. The results show that the majority of failures originate at the top (36%), and central sections of the cliff face (38%), and coincide with periods of intense rainfall. Conversely, 26% of failures occurred at the cliff toe alongside the highest wave energies.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Aldbrough - about 12 miles from Hull - where a whole community faces a stark reality. 90-year-old Alan Bartle, who has lived in the affected area for 30 years, says he has watched successive neighbours lose their homes as the land beneath them has disappeared.

90-year-old Alan Bartle worries for the future of his own home in Aldbrough. Credit: ITV Calendar

It is something that has equally devastating consequences further inland. In places like Fishlake, near Doncaster, the tide influences the level of the River Don and prevents land from draining quickly.

Two years ago, following heavy rainfall, flooding left this village under water. It was the first time the village has seen floods on such a scale since 1947, but one resident fears it will be more common for future generations.

Experts worry more could soon look like this one on the east coast. Credit: ITV Calendar

Without change, Professor Parsons fears the damage could be "impossible" to fix, and the outcome "more extreme than many of us can imagine".