Thursday, 3 September 2015

Climate change: and flooding >>> 'Lack of planning leaves coastal services vulnerable'

Whilst 'climate change' leaves many cold or disinterested
Futures Forum: Climate change: the language of framing ... "Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change"

... the issue of 'flooding' does not:

First hand experience of flooding increases interest in climate change

By Western Morning News | Posted: September 02, 2015

By Kate Langston

Somerset Levels

First hand experience of extreme weather events – such as last year’s dramatic floods in Dawlish and the Somerset Levels – increases people’s desire to tackle climate change, new research has shown.

In the first study of its kind, a survey of individuals affected by the 2013/14 flooding has found these groups are much more likely to engage with the issue of climate change than the average UK resident.

It is thought the results could help politicians and policy makers to find ways to create debate about the subject and motivate members of the public to take action.

The research, conducted by Dr. Christina Demski and Professor Nick Pidgeon of the University of Cardiff, is based on a survey of 995 affected individuals and more than 1000 other respondents from across Britain. The pair found that those with direct experience of flooding were 70% more likely to see climate change as one of the top three issues facing Britain in the coming decades.

They also found that around 31% of these individuals saw climate change as posing a serious or extremely serious threat to themselves and their family – compared to 18% of the general population.

Dr Demski suggested this increased engagement could translate into more support for actions to tackle climate change. “People are making connections between their experiences and climate change as an issue,” she said.

“This can lead them to view climate change as more personally relevant and bring about increased support for policies designed to tackle climate change and increase willingness to change behaviour.

“For example, support for the UK signing up to international agreements to limit carbon emissions, and stronger intentions to engage in personal actions to help tackle it.”

Dr Demski explained that while the group’s conclusions may seem obvious at first, this is the first time the theory has been proven in a formal investigation. She said it opened up avenues for further study, including into whether other forms of extreme weather, such as drought, have a similar impact on engagement.

Professor Pidgeon added there was a need to approach the subject area “with particular sensitivity” due to the disruption caused to those affected. “But we believe that they do offer an important opportunity for environmental scientists and policymakers to open up a constructive dialogue with the wider public about the rising risks of climate change,” he said.

First hand experience of flooding increases interest in climate change | Western Morning News

The flooding in the South West from early last year was pretty devastating:
Futures Forum: Flooding in the West Country... and coastal communities

It seems that not many lessons have been learnt:

Lack of planning leaves coastal services vulnerable to climate change

By Western Morning News | Posted: September 02, 2015

By Kate Langston

The growing vulnerability of Britain’s coastal infrastructure – including the much-maligned South Devon mainline – is being exacerbated by a lack of clear leadership and coordination, new research has found.

Teams from the University of Exeter examining the case of the Dawlish line, say the “fragmentation” of rail services between private and public sectors meant there was no appropriate strategy in place at the time of last year’s flooding.

And with such incidents due to become more common as the impact of climate change increases, similar disruption could be seen around the UK coastline wherever decentralisation and privatisation is widespread.

When severe storms hit the South West last winter, the Dawlish mainline was out of action for weeks at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to the local economy. Once initial repairs were completed, local councils and business groups united to form the Peninsula Rail Taskforce in a bid to secure a more “resilient” future for the line.

However, new research by Exeter’s Dr Roos den Uyl and Dr Duncan Russel suggests the absences of any unified management body at the time of the incident resulted in a lack of long-term planning for the region’s rail services. And they say there has been little change since.

“The policy-making setting around the Dawlish railway line is fragmented,” explains Dr den Uyl. “This fragmented setting has thus far prevented a climate change adaptation plan for this vulnerable part of the coastal railway.

“[This] mainly results from decentralisation and privatisation in the public sector, which does not seem to yield any leadership, problem-ownership or agency to address the challenges that climate change poses in this area.”

The team conclude that the mixture of decentralised and privatised management of services like rail is “not geared towards” addressing the impact of climate change. They add this will only be made worse if the Conservative Government continues to pay too little attention to the threat posed by climate change.

“Given the fact that the current UK government policy is not oriented towards prioritising climate change adaption and providing local authorities with more resources, this lack of action is not likely to change in the future,” continues Dr den Uyl.

“And given that this decentralised, privatised setting around infrastructure and coastal management applies to other areas in the UK, these areas may face similar challenges.”

But they say groups like Peninsula are helping to create a debate about who should be in charge of planning. “Privatisation and decentralisation are not necessarily bad things,” stresses Dr den Uyl.

“But in the face of climate change, which is a long-term and collective challenge we need to have a clear idea of who we want to be responsible.”

Dr den Uyl and Dr Russel are presenting their findings at the Royal Geographical Society annual international conference in Exeter this week.

In brief: the Dawlish rail saga

Frustration is growing across the South West as businesses and residents await news of progress on the region’s rail improvement programme.

Following last year’s storms, which saw whole sections of the South Devon line washed away, upgrading rail links has been a key issue for the Westcountry.

Work to reinforce the line last February took weeks to complete, and cost a total of £35 million.

But just months after it was completed a fresh round of storms saw cracks appear in the new sea wall – while services continue to be disrupted by high winds and tides.

In response to last winter’s chaos, local councils and businesses formed the Peninsula Rail Task Force to lobby for a more resilient line for Devon and Cornwall.

Their work helped to secure a promise of £7.2 billion from the Conservative Government.

Network Rail has since been examining options for the long-term resilience of the existing mainline, while the task force has been examining options for an inland route via Okehampton.

An inland route between Exeter and Newton Abbot avoiding Dawlish is also being considered.

Devon MP Gary Streeter indicated a draft feasibility report could be published in the next few months, with a final decision due in the spring.

However, last month a rockfall saw the line temporarily closed once again, prompting calls for more urgent action from ministers.

Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans warned delays with improving the line were “hitting the economy hard”.

While Labour MP for Exeter, Ben Bradshaw, has cast doubt on whether the Government will ever deliver on its “grand promises” for the region’s transport links.

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