Coastal erosion in the UK: science, risk and policy

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Andrew Russell

School of Geography, QMUL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Stuart Grieve

School of Geography, QMUL

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Project Description:

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – England’s statutory advisor on climate change adaptation – has reported that up to 210,000 properties are at risk of being lost to coastal erosion by 2100. However, this figure comes with a very large uncertainty estimate as the UK’s datasets relating to coastal erosion are based on irregular historic sampling, incorporate incomplete understanding of erosion processes and are not based on the latest climate change projections.

With all these unresolved factors, the real scale of the exposure to coastal erosion risks could be much higher than currently estimated and needs to be understood in much more detail in order to prepare for present day and future hazards.

This is a particularly important issue as the processes in place to manage coastal erosion risks are weak, even compared to those to manage coastal flooding risks. For example, losses to erosion events are usually not covered by buildings insurance and coastal properties and land can be purchased without any requirement to assess erosion risk in advance.

To address these factors, this project aims to:

1. Develop a robust assessment of the current science underpinning the erosion projections and calculate the hazards, exposure, risks and uncertainty more rigorously than in previous work;
2. Employ analysis and modelling techniques to examine coastal erosion risk on different spatial and temporal scales and for different asset types; and
3. Develop appropriate policy recommendations to respond to the issues uncovered, which will include engagement with relevant policy officials.

Policy Impact of Research:

Coastal erosion risks are a key concern of the Environment Agency, Defra and Local Authorities on the coast. Furthermore, the CCC has continued to assess government progress in managing this risk as lacking. Therefore, there are multiple routes to ensure that this project influences policy makers.

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