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What climate change will mean to Suffolk
As world leaders meet in Copenhagen to try to make a deal to prevent further global warming, why should East Anglians be concerned? Because what happened in 1953 could happen again.
In 1953 I lived on the North West coast of England, and I didn't hear about the floods in East Anglia. I didn't hear of them for several years after I moved here, until I became a funeral celebrant. Then I heard stories from people who were affected by the North Sea surge. 307 people were drowned, some as they slept. Hundreds of animals were lost.
In 1953, communications weren't as good as today. The first story I heard about the flood was about a man whose parents had a small general store on the Tendring peninsula coast. He heard that there was a danger of flooding and phoned them to tell them to move onto higher ground. Thinking that they had plenty of time, they started moving their stock onto the highest shelves, and were caught by the rising water before they could escape. When their son arrived, a day or so later, he found them both lying face down in the water, drowned. He never recovered from the shock, his wife said, and was terrified of water for the rest of his life. At his funeral, some of his colleagues said they'd never understood, until then, why he wouldn't go swimming. On my way home I stopped at the public library and asked if there were any books about the flood. There was one, which I borrowed.
After that, there were more stories. A man who lived in a boat moored on Mersea Island made a living selling firewood and anything else he could find. He delivered it with an old bicycle. He was caught by the flood before he could get home, and spent the night up a telegraph pole. A family who were living in an old hut near Harwich, waiting to be rehomed by the council, were cut off by the water. Fortunately, they had a dingy, so the father was able to get to work and buy groceries. It was several days before they all managed to escape.
The reason I'm telling these stories is that it will happen again. The likelihood of another sea surge like the one in 1953 has increased as we get more extreme weather, due to climate change, and as sea levels rise, large areas of the East Anglian coast will be flooded. Areas of special scientific interest will be lost, as well as hundreds of people's homes. Compared with the few houses that are currently falling into the sea, due to coastal erosion, it will be far worse.
Of course, if you're one of those who don't believe that climate change has anything to do with them, you'll think this is all exaggeration, and you're probably quite happy to buy a cottage by the sea. You might have read about those emails, and believed they provided the proof that it's all a conspiracy by scientists to spread alarm and make themselves feel important. But how much do you know about the science? Could you prove they were wrong? Or do you just hope they are, because you really don't want to make any changes in your lifestyle to help reverse global warming? Here's one explanation why the people who say those emails prove it's not happening are wrong...
But now the Daily Express, which is, of course, an authority in these matters, says that climate change is "natural", so we've no need to worry. Not so, says the New Scientist, pointing out all the errors in the Express's piece, while Anton Vowl supplies 100 reasons why the Daily Express isn't the world's greatest newspaper.
Anyhow, quite apart from any concerns you might have about coastal property prices, if you do accept the science, here are a few more reasons why humanists - that is, people who don't believe there's any superhuman being to come and clear up any mess we make of the small planet we all share - should care about climate change:
- Because more extreme weather will cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of other creatures;
- Because floods and drought will make some parts of the world uninhabitable, leading to huge numbers of climate change refugees who'll want to move to areas, like Europe, where it's likely that this will lead to conflict;
- Because water shortages will cause loss of life, and possibly water wars;
- Because we could lose thousands of species;
- Because low-lying areas, like the Pacific Islands and Bangladesh, will become totally submerged;
- Because it will be impossible to grow food in previously productive areas;
- Because the Earth will be a very unpleasant place to live for many of us;
- And so on.
Humanism is about an ethical approach to life, without religion. Like many things, such as the X-Factor, other people's sex lives, and the BNP, religion is a distraction that is of little importance compared with making a concerted effort to change ourselves before the planet changes any more for the worst. That means a simpler life, with fewer unsustainable luxuries, fewer children, less meat, less energy. We can do it, can't we?