Ronan Uhel, a top official at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, said the situation in Happisburgh shows that governments and insurance companies have finally started letting the public know that it will have to do more than buy fuel-efficient cars and better light bulbs to fight global warming.
He said citizens are being shown they can’t keep building homes on islands and near lowlands and coastlines, especially in vulnerable areas where it no longer makes sense to rebuild offshore barriers.
In countries like Britain, “a national debate is just starting about what is an appropriate policy of adaptation to climate change,” Uhel said in an interview. “People are just beginning to realize the risks of global warming and the big lifestyle changes that may be needed to brace for them.”
Late last year, a new law took effect in England and Wales whereby the government decides whether it makes sense, economically and environmentally, to rebuild barriers.
For Happisburgh, 135 miles northeast of London, the answer was no.
“Basically, whatever we do to reduce greenhouse emissions we’re going to face about one meter (3.3 feet) sea level rise on the east coast of England in the next 100 years,” Clive Bates, a top official at the British government’s Environment Agency, told The Associated Press.