A Dawning Realization: Retreat from Coastlines Inevitable

February 13, 2014

This year’s “unusual” storms have put a fine point on it, but planners in coastal areas have begun to grapple with the idea that many vulnerable coastal communities are simply not sustainable.  The concept is clear whether in tiny Welsh hamlets, or major metropolitan areas.


The government could see as much £4.3tn written off the value of properties in high flood-risk areas unless it rethinks the way insuranceand mortgages are going to be provided for such vulnerable areas.

The warning came as peers urged the government to revise plans to exclude up to 5m households from its proposals to provide subsidised insurance to households in areas of high flood risk.

The warning of a property values write-down, in excess of 30%, has been made by Philip Wilbourn, a chartered environmental surveyor and expert in valuation and environmental risk. He sent the warning in an email to peers who are discussing the water bill.

Wilbourn said: “There is a giant bomb about to detonate under the Conservative party. It was said that George Osborne decided there were no votes in flooding when he cut the budget for flooding, but he is now discovering there are a lot of Conservative seats suffering.

“I don’t think people have realised the danger we now have of setting up flood ghettos and a collapse in asset values, with wider consequences for UK PLC.”

Wilbourn said the Environment Agency believed that up to 6m homes were at risk, but this figure did not consider all mechanisms of flooding. He said that if factors such as rising ground water in chalk areas, surface water, and other mechanisms were fully considered, then up to 35% of the housing stock – or 10.9m homes – could be threatened by flooding.

He argued: “If it’s uneconomic to buy insurance and, say, 20% of the housing stock don’t buy or can’t buy, the loss of value is £4.3tn.”

13 Responses to “A Dawning Realization: Retreat from Coastlines Inevitable”

  1. Wes Says:

    So as the climate effects get worse and worse, sooner and sooner, the politicians and the public who have been happily offloading the problem to the next generation are finding that the next generation is now. We could rejoice in the poetic justice of this, if it were not that so many innocent people are and will suffer from the callous neglect of those entrusted with the care of the environment. The insurance companies, whose business depends on being rational, have been sounding the alarm to little effect. Until now. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. 11 million homes is a lot of people.

    • You mean the innocent people who happily entrusted the government to those who don’t care? The innocent people who happily swallow the economic wisdom of today: That callous neglect of the environment is necessary for economic growth and for filling their pension funds? Lets hope they soon realize they’re not innocent at all.

      • Phillip Shaw Says:

        I doubt that many of those affected will have the self-honesty to realize that their actions have contributed to their plight. AGW isn’t the result of one, or a few, massive mistakes – it’s the aggregate consequence of millions of independent, relatively small, mistakes. There is an old saying “No raindrop blames itself for the flood”. Most people I know feel their personal carbon footprint, their contribution to AGW, can’t be making much of a difference so they don’t feel personally responsible when disaster strikes. Their mantra is “It’s not my fault!”.

        The only possible solution I see to this widespread mindset is education. We’ve seen positive results from educating the public about littering, smoking, recycling, etc. – so perhaps sites like this will make a difference. I certainly hope so, not so much for my generation but for my grandkids.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Many of the “innocent” ARE innocent in the sense that they are ignorant of the facts. We could blame them for not keeping up, but some of them are also not very literate science-wise, are politically “blinded”, or are too busy with “life” to pay attention.

          We DO need to focus on education, and in terms that Joe Public can understand. That’s why I have come up with my “Twenty Pounds of CO2 With Every Gallon” plan to help people understand about their CO2 footprints.

          People buy gasoline, drive all over, and are not aware of what contribution they are making to the GHG load—it’s invisible, and just leaves the tailpipe unseen. Since burning 1 gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds (Yes, TWENTY pounds) of CO2, I propose that everyone be required to take a 20 pound bag of something symbolic of that CO2 (sand perhaps) for every gallon of gas they buy. If people had to figure out how to dispose of 300 pounds of “something” every time they filled a 15 gallon tank, they just might start thinking about what we’re doing with GHG. I have tried this idea out on a number of less science-literate folks, and some of them were open-mouthed when they heard the math.

          For members of the oh-so-deserving Repugnant Parry, the bags should contain 20 pounds of simulated denialist horsepucky in the form of real “pucky”. (Any type of “pucky” will do—pig and chicken are particularly offensive).

          Educational things could be printed on the outside of the bags, ads and naming rights could be sold—the possibilities for the capitalist are endless.

          • Unfortunately, too much of capitalist energy I’d devoted to greenwashing and funding anti science to protect their assets. While some individuals have a selfish attitude, other willing ones find a growing list of alternatives to a carbon based lifestyle. This is still a work in progress, but an average person can get solar installed or lease an EV affordable. More headway is made in new homes with better insulation.

          • Never had thought of the weight of CO2 per gallon. Combustion of a 6.3 lb. gallon of gasoline also yields 7 lbs. of H2O. Gasoline is 87% carbon and 13% Hydrogen by weight. Isn’t it amazing what we can discuss when we’re not chasing Dave’s sticks. As I read the post, I fully expected to encounter a barrage of sea level misinformation in the comments.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Apparently, Dave can’t be everywhere at once with his sea level BS (or perhaps Peter is limiting his “presence” a bit—let’s hope).

            Yes, the weight of CO2 released by burning any fossil fuel is quite impressive, since they are mostly carbon chains with Hydrogen attached. For instance, a molecule of natural gas methane CH4 weighs only 16u (12) + (4 x 1), but the CO2 and H2O that result weigh 44u and 18u for a total GHG weight of 62u because of the added oxygen (12) + (2 x 16) and (2 x 1) + (16). At least the earth has some capacity to deal with the water by integrating it into the water cycle—the plants can’t take up the CO2 fast enough so it accumulates in the atmosphere (or acidifies the oceans).

        • Education sure is necessary and helpful. E.g. dumbo’s idea below is indeed an eyeopener (I’ve done such math with a friend recently). — Yet methinks it will be quickly forgotten.

          There’s a fundamental difference to education about littering, smoking, recycling, etc.: The CO2 thing involves more feelings of guilt, and people usually are willing to make any intellectual sacrifice to evade these feelings of individual or group guilt.

          Methinks that’s why science deniers like the UK environment minister aren’t laughed out of office, but voted into it. And methinks that’s a major mechanism why the “innocent” are still quite uneducated about global warming (having managed to evade the news since 1988).

          Methinks we need much more psychology than education to assist the innocent in grief, in accepting guilt, and in facing reality. (For the not so innocent, where neither psychology nor education can help, I suggest to try more ridicule and shaming.)

    • Andy Lee Robinson Says:

      Every time the can gets kicked down the road, it doubles in size.

  2. […] This year's "unusual" storms have put a fine point on it, but planners in coastal areas have begun to grapple with the idea that many vulnerable coastal communities are simply not sustainable. The…  […]

  3. climatebob Says:

    There is not enough money in the UK treasury to compensate for the flooding loses. http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/sea-level.html

    • Phillip Shaw Says:

      Just FYI, there is a math error in the article you linked to. It states that 1 Gton of ice is equivalent to 100 km3. That’s off by two orders of magnitude. Actually, 1 Gton is about 1 km3 in volume. 1 m3 of ice weighs about 1,000 kg (a metric ton) so 1km3 is 1 Gton.

  4. […] 2014/02/13: PSinclair: A Dawning Realization: Retreat from Coastlines Inevitable […]

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