Our climate is changing. This is causing sea levels to rise, and storm patterns are becoming stronger and less predictable.
Land levels are also changing. As the huge mass of ice melted away from northern parts of Britain after the last ice age, the land level in the north began to 'bounce back' and rise in relation to the sea. At the same time, land began to fall in the south of the country. This is still happening at a rate of a couple of millimetres per year.
These combined processes are likely to lead to an increase in coastal erosion in some areas over the next hundred years and more. The natural and man-made barriers that absorb wave energy will become increasingly submerged or prone to damage over time as sea levels rise. This means greater exposure of the coast to the direct impact of the sea.
How much coastal erosion rates increase will depend partly on our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the effects of global warming. Recent work by the Government's Foresight group suggests that under current climatic conditions, the coast of England and Wales could experience an average of up to 67 metres of erosion over the next hundred years. However, it is possible that our impact on the world's climate could increase this to 175 metres by 2100.
New information on our website to show coastal erosion risk
This is clearly an important issue and something we are taking into account when making predictions about rates of erosion and decisions about coastal management. New information to show the risk of coastal erosion around the coast of England will be added to our website from this summer. It will use the most up-to-date data from the UK Climate Projections 2009, and will be used to help inform future management of the coast.
How do we make decisions about where and how to invest money?
Because of the likely increase in erosion in years to come, we now have more money to spend on coastal management than ever before.
We make decisions about how and where to invest this money using Shoreline Management Plans, which are developed by local authorities and the Environment Agency in consultation with coastal communities and other organisations. These plans take a long-term view of how coastlines develop, taking climate change into account.
What can you do to limit your impact on climate change?
More fundamentally, we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that we can help to limit the impact of climate change and rising sea levels. For more information on what we are doing to reduce our impact, and on what you can do to reduce yours, see our web pages on Being Green.