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Thread: England abandons first village to rising seas.

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    Default England abandons first village to rising seas.

    ‘This is a wake-up call’: the villagers who could be Britain’s first climate refugees

    As sea levels rise, Fairbourne, sandwiched between mountains and the beach, is being returned to the waves. But where will its residents go?

    This is how Wilkins, 67, expected to spend her retirement when she sold her family home in Warwick and moved to Fairbourne, in north Wales, in 2002. For many years it was blissful: she spent her summers swimming in the sea and drying off in the back garden. Winters were harder, although she always had the views of Snowdonia’s rugged slopes to lift her spirits. But if Wilkins lasts nearly as long as her mother, who is 98 and also lives in the village, she could be among the first residents to be moved out: Gwynedd council has decided it can no longer defend her home from rising sea levels driven by increasing global temperatures.

    “This is a wake-up call for the country,” she says, making her way up the steep shingle bank to the wall that protects her white bungalow from the waves. “This is going to happen elsewhere. Sometimes you have to see someone else go through it – we just happen to be the first.”

    In 26 years – or sooner, if forecasts worsen or a storm breaches the sea defences – a taskforce led by Gwynedd council will begin to move the 850 residents of Fairbourne out of their homes. The whole village – houses, shops, roads, sewers, gas pipes and electricity pylons – will then be dismantled, turning the site back into a tidal salt marsh.

    It will become the first community in the UK to be decommissioned as a result of climate change; while other villages along England’s crumbling east coast have lost houses to accelerating erosion, none have been abandoned. It may also create hundreds of British climate refugees: the residents of Fairbourne are not expected to receive any compensation for the loss of their homes, and resettlement plans are unclear.

    It will not be the last village to meet this fate. Sea levels around the UK have risen by 15.4cm since 1900, and the Met Office expects them to rise by as much as 1.12m from modern levels by 2100, putting at risk communities in coastal floodplains and on sea cliffs, which are found around much of the east and south coast of England. The west of Wales and north-west England are also vulnerable. Even if the world’s governments succeed in reversing increasing emissions in line with their Paris climate commitments, sea levels are set to rise for centuries, as the impact of higher global temperature and warmer oceans takes effect.

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