Welsh villagers could be U.K.'s first 'climate refugees'
Villagers living in a coastal Welsh community could win the unenviable title of the United Kingdom’s first “climate change refugees.”
Fairbourne (pop. 900) is barely above sea level. An embankment and drainage channels keep the Irish Sea out.
Even with upgrades, scientists believe rising oceans resulting from global warming could overwhelm the flood controls. To minimize the risk to life and livelihood, a plan is being developed to move people out by 2045.
“Crucially, that’s the point where it becomes both economically unviable and with an increased risk to life to maintain the defences,” explained Gwynedd Councillor Catrin Wagner.
Martin Austin, a senior lecturer in coastal sediment dynamics at Bangor University, says that a significant storm could one day bring catastrophe to the village.
Global warming is causing sea levels to rise, not only because water expands as it warms but because ice is melting, and that means more destructive storm surges, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But not everyone is Fairbourne is convinced that the town is at risk.
Stuart Eves has lived in the village for more than 40 years and questions why he might need to move.
“They’re going to destroy our village,” he said. “Come and show us your figures that you’re using to say the sea level is going to rise that quickly,” he added.
Villager Angela Thomason is also skeptical. She says that nobody is panicking yet about “what is supposedly going to happen in 25, 30, 35 years.”