Great Yarmouth at centre of flood risk fears

GREAT Yarmouth has been pinpointed as one of the most vulnerable areas in the country to climate change.

But the report, by the influential Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found few people in the town appeared to be concerned by the risks.

The report is one of the first to examine the social aspects of climate change as well as its physical impacts on our coastline. It warns sea levels could rise by between one and two metres by the latter half of this century, while extreme weather events like storm surges and flooding will become more common.

Researchers say that means vulnerable sections of society, such as the elderly living in coastal and low-lying areas are at risk, not only from flooding, but also the financial consequences such as the increasing cost of insuring their homes.

They say the town is “an urban port community that experiences relatively high levels of unemployment”.

It adds: “The local economy is strongly connected to the sea both through shipping activities via the redeveloping port and through tourists attracted by its coastal location and associated amenities.

“It is also home to a high proportion of elderly and retired individuals.”

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The report notes “a poor level of awareness” among those groups about climate change and its impacts on Yarmouth.

It says there is a “not in my lifetime” attitude among the town’s elderly population.

It adds that many younger people in the town were more concerned with providing for themselves and their families.

“Compared with these day-to-day issues, climate change receives a low priority,” it said. “Particularly as it is still perceived by many as a future rather than current threat.”

Researcher Amalia Fernandez-Bilbao said: “We chose Great Yarmouth because of its commercial importance. It doesn’t mean it will be the only place affected by climate change, the whole coastline will be affected.

“It’s also a fact that when people talk about climate change, there seems to be this thought that climate change will happen in the future, it’s not something that’s going to affect them for the next 20 years.

“In some of these areas, there’s such low awareness. Perhaps local authorities have other concerns like regeneration, perhaps they have other things on their plates.”

However, borough council leader Barry Coleman said levels of awareness varied according to the age group, and older residents were likely to take a “not in my lifetime” approach if they were old enough not to be affected.

He added: “Nobody has stopped me to discuss climate change.”

The Joseph Rowntree report concludes that the impact of climate change on vulnerable sections of society needs to be factored into the government’s key policy paper, the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. “Many vulnerable coastal communities and their local authorities (and possibly elsewhere) may need high levels of support,” it warns, “including funding, from central government if they are to successfully adapt to a changing climate and reduce the risks they face”.