[Diggers350] Somerset levels

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at gn.apc.org
Fri Feb 7 21:01:35 GMT 2014

Hi all,

I didn't want to reply on this, but I feel I have to... if only to try
and drag this back towards reality from "Daily Mail Dreamland"!

What did or did not happen in the past relating to drainage in the
levels is irrelevant. That's because those past patterns of
planning/action have no bearing on the climatic changes taking place
today, and more especially in the future. It's because changes in
weather patterns are negating past measures that we're seeing the
problems which exist today.

Over the next 40 years large parts of the Somerset levels will become
uninhabitable. Not just because of climate change, but because the cost
of pumping water from the levels into the drainage system will become
prohibitively expensive.

Not just the levels either -- large parts of Lincolnshire, Suffolk and
Yorkshire will face these same decisions in the near future. For
example, in Wast Lancashire they're already cutting back on pumping,
allowing water levels to rise in the Crossens Drain and slowly
saturating farmland, because the Environment Agency can't justify the
cost of the electricity bill.

Building hard sea defences will make no difference. As we've seen this
week when hard defences are over-topped by large waves, all they do is
trap salt water behind the defence. Hard defences are of questionable
benefit in the Bristol Channel anyway because of the potential scale of
future storm surges. And in any case, it's going to be difficult to
justify the costs of defences against the costs of relocating people.

Likewise dredging the rivers and drainage channels in the levels will
make little difference; whilst it allows water to drain away towards the
sea more quickly, during a storm surge it allows water from the coast to
run inland more quickly. Building sluice gates -- in effect Thames
Barriers on the Parrett, Axe, and Brue -- to stop that would, once
again, cost far more than the value of the land behind the defences.

The people living below the ten metre contour on the levels will have to
move, certainly within the next 50 years. It's not seal level rise
that's the problem, it's the increase annual probability and severity of
storm surges, and how they operate within the confines of the Bristol
Channel. If they are not relocated now in an orderly way, then it will
be as a result of the pure misery of living there and getting flooded
out year after year.

This is the bit about climate adaptation which many -- certainly not the
media and definitely not local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger -- don't appear
to understand. Climate change is "in the post" -- if people want to its
arrival then they should move! There is nothing that we can do except
accommodate the realities of what it means.

Sadly, for the historic lands of the Somerset levels, that means
returning to what they were 1,000 years ago before they were
progressively drained. There's no point in debating what is past,
because that's not going to help people accept what is. When debating
climate, and more generally the "limits to growth", reference to the
past is increasingly irrelevant because we're entering a period in human
history for which there are no past templates to refer to.



"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
email - mobbsey at gn.apc.org
website - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/index.shtml
public key - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/mobbsey_public_key-2013-2.asc
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