Coastal erosion in Scotland is immediate threat - and worse than predicted

Coastal erosion poses a 'more immediate threat' to Scotland than climate change, an academic warned.

Professor Jim Hansom, an honorary research fellow at the University of Glasgow's School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, issued a stark warning about the future of Scottish coastal towns, including Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.

He has led research on the Dynamic Coast Project, a study which three years ago predicted that more than 20 per cent of the coast was at risk of erosion through rising sea levels.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The study is designed to inform the public sector on the impact of coastal change.

Professor Jim Hansom, an honorary research fellow at the University of Glasgow's School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, issued a stark warning about the future of Scottish coastal towns, including Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.

It warned that by 2050, the cost of damage could be £400 million, with infrastructure including roads and railways at risk of flooding.

Professor Hansom said: "There is an immediate problem that needs to be addressed now.

"Think about what is going to happen to your coastline before temperature stabilises.

"You have to think seriously about what happens at Edinburgh seafront, what happens across the Glasgow seafront, not to mention the hundreds of small towns along the coast, such as Arbroath and Stonehaven and Stornoway.

Read More

Read More
SNP set to unveil ‘Scottish visa’ plan to combat Brexit

"When you think where our sewage sites are they are close to sea level, where our railways and roads that hug the coast, they are going to be jeopardised, many are going to be under threat in 30 or 40 years.

"Before we begin to stabilise carbon emissions and control the temperature, we have got these sea level rises happening now."

The National Coastal Change Assessment (NCCA) projected 30,000 buildings are sited close to potentially erodible coasts.

By 2050 residential and nonresidential buildings, along with rail lines and roads, are expected to be directly affected by coastal erosion.

Professor Hansom said: "Are we dealing with the issue properly?

"The bottom line is no.

"The Dynamic Coast has demonstrated the recent period has seen an almost 40 per cent increase in the extent of erosion and a doubling of the rate of erosion.

"So things are speeding up."

But he accepted their past erosion predictions were based on past rates, and do not include future sea level change.

An updated analysis is expected in the summer, but Mr Hansom warned of the need for urgent action.

He added: "The key thing is you hear a lot of things about climate change and reducing carbon emissions to tackle temperature increases and that is not going to help us for another 30 years.

"We have an adaptational problem now that needs to be addressed, before any of these carbon emission stabilisations or reductions actually produce any effect."

He believes work is urgently required to reinforce Scotland's eroding coastline through artificial extensions of the nation's beaches to protect them from the ever-encroaching sea.

Professor Hansom also said it does not make sense to develop areas that are close to sea level.

The 2017 Dynamic Coast project used information drawn from more than 2,000 maps and a million data points and was carried out by experts from the Scottish Government, Scottish

Natural Heritage and the University of Glasgow.

It was then discovered the erosion of the coastline had doubled in speed over the previous 40 years.

Scientists and experts examining future effects on UK coasts for the Marine Climate Change Impact Partnership (MCCIP) have said the assessment's numbers are "likely to be underestimates as erosion rates are expected to increase in future due primarily as a result of increases in the rate of sea level rise".

A new MCCIP report that includes contributions by more than 150 scientists warns the latest UK sea-level rise projections are "higher than previous estimates, implying increased coastal flood risk".

The report said: "The likelihood of compound effects from tidal flooding and extreme rainfall is increasing, which can greatly exacerbate flood impacts."