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yielding to the rising sea…

January 8, 2017 Leave a comment

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January 8th: yet another walk today, as part of my rehabilitation, around yet another part of my home village. This time around the church and into the Pevensey Levels, the fields that were painstakingly reclaimed over the centuries from the former tidal marsh as it became silted up and cut off from the sea by shingle drift along the English Channel. These fields – from where my photo today was taken, looking north towards Pevensey Castle – are rich grazing land now, much prized by farmers, but now extremely vulnerable to being reclaimed by the sea as climate change makes sea level rise rapidly. Estimates vary amongst climate scientists, but even conservative estimates suggest it could be up to 2 metres by 2050, which would easily overwhelm these fields I walked over today, plus much of the land for  miles inland, including much of the fast growing town of Eastbourne nearby.

It’s strange to walk over fields that look so permanent a feature of the landscape yet knowing that they were underwater once for thousands of years and will be underwater again before this century is out. If one thing is certain about climate change, it is that there will have to be a Great Retreat from the present coastline in many parts of the world. And certainly we are not ready for that here in terms of preparedness and contingency planning, which strikes me as so odd when I think of how much effort normally goes into planning for most other aspects of modern life. So we’re back to this disconnect I’ve talked about before, this inability to connect up the facts of climate change with the awesome and awful implications of those facts for the radical changes and political choices that will have to be made if those facts are truly faced up to.

And this disconnect persists despite the fact that we have, in effect, run out of time to think or argue about it. As I read today, an ice-free Arctic for at least part of each year is now imminent (that is, sometime within the next few years), and that will be a truly unprecedented event in human history, guaranteed to destabilise climate patterns we’ve been used to, and guaranteed to massively accelerate global warming because of the drastic reduction in the amount of solar energy reflected back into space and the drastic increase of heat energy absorbed by the ice-free Arctic ocean.

Yet I read today that, despite this, Trump will take a chain-saw to Obama’s climate legacy, starting on day one of taking office as US President:

Trump is said to be looking at ways to extricate the US from the Paris agreement while aggressively exploiting fossil fuels. He has said that on his first day in office, he will lift “the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal, and we will put our miners back to work”.

the turf I walk on, torn from a retreating sea,

but soon to be torn back by a rising sea,

yields to my tread, like a cushion,

yielding to me and all like me,

who in turn must yield to nature’s power

as the super-storms roll in with the incoming tides.

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