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One-metre sea level rise on Dorset coast 'inevitable', warns ocean expert

Dr Ivan Haigh, from the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton
Dr Ivan Haigh, from the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton

DORSET sea levels are likely to rise by a metre – even if climate change limits adopted in the Paris Agreement are implemented.

A sea level expert told a Dorset Coast Forum meeting that the changes were already under way and the one-metre rise was almost inevitable even if global warming was kept down, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Dr Ivan Haigh, from the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton, said his research shows that sea level rises are not only increasing on the Dorset coast, but accelerating.

He told the conference at Poole that current figures for the local coastline are showing a 3.3mm-per-year rise in average levels with storm averages much greater. At the same time the coast was subsiding at between 0.5mm and 1mm a year, according to most experts.

Dr Haigh said he worried that changes to sea levels, accompanied by sea temperature increases, might mean than by 2050 the world’s coral reefs would all be dead.

The audience heard that locally the changes had already resulted in the breaking up of one third of the ‘ammonite pavement’ fossil deposit in Lyme Bay.

He said that of thousands of glaciers worldwide, only three had shown any sign of growth in the last 150 years and there was plenty of evidence globally of increased storms and higher rainfall as well as wildfires and drought.

He said that from 1880 to the present day, nine of the hottest average years had been in the last decade, and 2019 might yet be the hottest of all.

Dr Haigh said data showed that in the 20th century there had been a 1.7mm sea level increase each year, but from 1993 to today that had reached 3.3mm a year for the UK, and some places in the southern hemisphere had seen rises of 10mm.

Other speakers at the Dorset Coast Forum meeting warned of the danger that pesticides and fertilisers were doing to the earth’s “natural balance”, calling for a nature-first policy for the future, including returning some areas to their natural states.

“It’s all about culture change, not hoping that technology will save us,” said Chris Skelly from the Healthy Urban Microbiome Initiative.

Sam Scrivens from the Jurassic Coast Trust said climate change and the resulting erosion and sea level rises were seen as the biggest issue for those the group had consulted during the year.

“Sea level rises may threaten our coastal communities, and we have to look at how they adapt to and address that threat,” he said.

Other issues included how to find a balance between the numbers of visitors to the Jurassic Coast while at the same time protecting it.

Coastal spending

THE meeting heard that millions of pounds had been pumped into the county – spread between almost 20 projects – thanks to the Dorset Coast Forum.

Coordinator Rhiannon Jones said that between them they amounted to spending of £12.5m, more than half the income from the Coastal Communities Fund.

She added that although funding for most of the projects was due to finish in December, for many the work would still continue.

The projects include the Gateway scheme at Weymouth, a number of initiatives at Swanage including setting up a ‘green’ business group, and work with the local fishing industry.

Other successes included taking on an aquaculture development officer who had represented Dorset at national level and had helped shape the Dorset Maritime Aquaculture Strategy and a ‘virtual hub’.

Art projects included the creation of four sculptures for the Art of Food and Drink and a ‘leave only footprints’ campaign, as well as the ongoing success of the Litter Free Coast and Sea project.

Work under way included a short animation about the effect of what is known as ‘blackwater’ in harbours, a project in partnership with Natural England and others.

Ms Jones said the strength of the organisation was through its partnership working.

The forum was established in 1995, and today has more than 1,000 members representing 260 organisations including public bodies, charities and the private sector, as well as fishing representatives, and environmental, recreational, historical, maritime, business and tourism sectors.

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